|Directed by||Joseph Losey|
|Screenplay by||Tennessee Williams|
|Based on||The Milk Train Doesn't Stop Here Anymore|
by Tennessee Williams
|Produced by||John Heyman|
|Edited by||Reginald Beck|
|Music by||John Barry|
|Distributed by||Universal Pictures|
|Box office||$2 million|
Boom! is a 1968 British drama film directed by Joseph Losey and starring Elizabeth Taylor, Richard Burton and Noël Coward. It was adapted by Tennessee Williams from his own play The Milk Train Doesn't Stop Here Anymore.
Flora 'Sissy' Goforth (Taylor, in a part written for an older woman) is a terminally-ill woman living with a coterie of servants, whom she verbally abuses, in a large mansion on a secluded Italian island. Into her life comes a mysterious man, Christopher Flanders, nicknamed "Il Angelo Dellamorte" "The Angel of Death" (played by then-husband Burton, in a part intended for a younger man). Christopher claims to have met her previously, while Flora, for her part, affects not to remember having met him before. Flora is said to suffer from neuritis and several other kinds of "-itis."
In her complex of villas wired for sound, so she can at any moment resume her dictation, Flora is dictating her memoirs detailing her multiple marriages, and her affair with her only love - a now-deceased poet. She is interrupted when her guard dogs attack Christopher as he climbs the cliff side to her estate. She has her secretary Miss Black, (whom she calls 'Blackie' throughout the film), set him up in a villa for him to recuperate. She also provides him with a samurai warrior’s robe, with accomanying sword, to wear in lieu of his clothes that had been shredded from the dog attack.
She invites The Witch of Capri (Coward), to dinner on her terrace. The 'Witch' informs her of Christopher’s nickname and his history of visiting the dying shortly before their demise. Flora becomes convinced that he indeed may be an omen of her own impending doom, though she is in denial of it. Christopher meanwhile flagrantly seduces Miss Black, whose husband had died the year previously.
The interaction between Goforth and Flanders forms the backbone for the rest of the film, with both of the major characters voicing lines of dialogue that carry allegorical and Symbolist significance, such as Flora’s speech to The Witch about present moments becoming instant memories and Christopher speaking about the sound of the ocean waves signifying the sound of each moment people are still alive (the titular “boom”).
The movie mingles respect and contempt for human beings who, like Goforth, continue to deny their own death, even as it draws closer and closer. It examines how these characters can enlist and redirect their fading erotic drive into the reinforcement of this denial.
Flora begins to become enamored by Christopher, as well as terrified of him. She fluctuates between emotional vulnerability and being bombastic and heated. She drives Miss Black to quit her secretarial job and grows weaker as the day turns into night.
As she lies in bed dying, Christopher takes her huge diamond ring (a symbol of taking away his “victim’s” life), and tells her a story of how he helped an old man with low quality of life drown and end his suffering. Flora dies following the speech and Christopher throws her ring off the cliff. The film ends with the sight of waves crashing and Christopher murmuring, “Boom.”
Filming took place on the island of Sardinia at the Porto Conte Natural Park near Alghero, and was the site of a close call for actress Taylor. A trailer that served as her dressing room came loose from its moorings only a few seconds after she stepped out of it, and "plunged over a 150-foot embankment into the sea". Built especially for the film, the mansion of Mrs. Flora Goforth is situated high atop the limestone cliffs of Isola de Presa, a small island in the Mediterranean off the coast of Sardinia. Along the bluffs are replicas of the Easter Island moai heads, six of them, representing perhaps the spirits of the six husbands she outlived. Some interiors of the mansion were sets in Rome.
The film was received poorly by critics. On Rotten Tomatoes it has an approval rating of 20% based on reviews from 15 critics.
Time wrote "They display the self-indulgent fecklessness of a couple of rich amateurs hamming it up at the country-club." Paul D. Zimmerman, writing for Newsweek, called it "a pompous, pointless nightmare". The Hollywood Reporter called it "An ordeal in tedium", and Saturday Review called it "Outright junk". Lawrence Devine in the Los Angeles Herald Examiner asked "Why was Boom! filmed in the first place?" Wilfred Sheed wrote in Esquire: "Let them [Taylor and Burton] by all means do their thing, but why film it and charge admission?" Richard Schickel wrote in Life: "That title could not be more apt; it is precisely the sound of a bomb exploding."
Filmmaker John Waters admires the film, and chose it as a favorite to present in the first Maryland Film Festival in 1999. The film's poster is visible in Waters' 1972 film Pink Flamingos. In an interview with Robert K. Elder for his book The Best Film You've Never Seen, Waters describes the film as "beyond bad. It's the other side of camp. It's beautiful, atrocious, and it's perfect. It's a perfect movie, really, and I never tire of it."