Thursday, 21 July 2011

Burton and Taylor in Doctor Faustus (1967)

Last night I watched the 1967 film adaptation of Marlowe's Doctor Faustus, featuring Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor. I wasn't very impressed. The lame special effects and studio sets are mostly dated without being cheesy-fun (as they are in some Hammer and low-budget films.)

Also, neither of the lead actors were really at their best. Burton was simply unconvincing at the start and by the time his performance improved, particularly in his depiction of Faust's growing world weariness and desperation, the constant presence of Elizabeth Taylor had become so distracting and aggravating that it was hard to enjoy the rest.

I must say I have never really understood the appeal of Elizabeth Taylor. She plays about a dozen different parts in the film, including Helen of Troy, constantly popping up like a jack in the box. In fact, just about every woman turn out to be Taylor. It would take someone of extraordinary beauty and charisma to carry this off, and Taylor doesn't.

Also, there was simply no chemistry between Burton and Taylor, who had been married for four years when the film was made and simply appear bored with each other.

I was surprised by how much of Marlowe's text was retained, and how little of the text was changed. Although, when changes were made they were rarely for the better. The scene depicting the Seven Deadly Sins was simply deadly boring (and it omitted one of the sins: lechery); the Pope scene came after the Emperor scene instead of before it, which is neither here nor there, but neither scene offered the light relief it ought to have had.

The highlights? Faust's study (above picture) and Mephistopheles as a black cat (but them I am fond of black cats).

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BTW: While looking for the above photo I happened on this list of ten Demonic Pact films—of which, I have only watched five (marked *). I don't think I could watch another Nicholas Cage film (marked †) but I will hunt out the other four.

The Imaginarium Of Doctor Parnassus (2009)
Ghost Rider (2007)†
Shortcut To Happiness (2004)
Bedazzled (2000)*
Deal Of A Lifetime (1999)
The Devil's Advocate (1997)*
Angel Heart (1987)*
Spawn (1997)*
Doctor Faustus (1967)*
Damn Yankees (1958)

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