Things That Make You Go Boom!

Feature by Lindsay West | 10 Oct 2008

When selecting your slice of Tennessee Williams cinematic majesty this Glasgay!, do Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, indulge in The Glass Menagerie, and drink in Streetcar; but how about talking a chance on Boom!?

Going down in history as one of the best failed art films ever made, and universally panned by its contemporary critics, Joseph Losey’s Boom! is an outrageous, hysterical, shrieking diva of a movie, and just so happens to be Tennessee Williams’ own pick of his works’ movie adaptations. OK, so he did write the screenplay himself, but his rather noteable seal of approval suggests that all of Boom!’s excess, all of its howling ridiculousness and inflated melodrama, is not only intentional but offered up to be relished. We may be supposed to be laughing.

As a Burton and Taylor extravaganza, verbal sparring abounds: with she the richest woman in the world, he the Angel of Death, and playwright Noel Coward installed as a character known only as The Witch of Capri. An adaptation of Williams’ 1963 play, The Milk Train Doesn’t Stop Here Anymore, Boom! essentially tackles the standard Williams thematics of isolation and estrangement - but abstracted, in headdresses, and (if set reports are to be believed) very, very drunk.

Hailed by John Hairspray Waters as “the ultimate drag queen role”, Taylor alternates between dying swan and hissy fit throughout, downing shots and dressed in a staggering array of Tiziani costumes and Bulgari jewels (highlights of which include a frankly jaw-dropping ‘kabuki’ outfit at the half hour mark with a planet-sized headdress, and a set of pear-shaped white shades more befitting of space travel). For Sissy Goforth is a character who knows that blood transfusions are always best undertaken whilst wearing maribou feathers.

Boom! is a film about excess, decay, loneliness, and loss, with dialogue as whip-sharp as you’d expect from its noble screenwriter, all of which you’ll find in the majority of the Tennessee Williams adaptations rightfully being returned to the big screen. But Liz Taylor sharing a meal of sea monster with Noel Coward? That you’ll only find in Boom!.


Boom! is screened on Saturday 25 October at the Filmhouse in Edinburgh, and on Tuesday 28 October at the GFT for Glasgay!.