Elizabeth Taylor in spectacular headdress

“Beyond bad… the other side of camp… a perfect movie, really.” Schlock-loving John Waters’s verdict on Boom! is pretty much the mainstream take on this 1968 monstrosity, a vehicle for Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton that is so monumentally kitsch that everyday adjectives aren’t up to describing it. Camp or kitsch? Why not both? If camp is unknowing whereas kitsch is deliberate, this has to be the latter, since it’s an out-and-out attempt to fix Tennessee Williams’s unsuccessful play The Milk Train Doesn’t Stop Here Anymore by making it even more grandiose and exaggerated than it was on the stage. You may hate it but you cannot deny its spectacle. The great Douglas Slocombe … Read more

Secret Ceremony

Cenci and Leonora in bed

At first sight bizarre, and at second sight even weirder, 1968’s Secret Ceremony is the sort of arthouse thriller that Elizabeth Taylor apparently never made. For Mia Farrow, her co-star, it looks like a warm-up for the following year’s Rosemary’s Baby. Robert Mitchum, yes Robert Mitchum, makes up the third leg of this very wonky stool. Forget Mitchum for the moment. Who are these women, it asks and eventually answers, wrongfooting us most of the way with its story of needy co-dependence in which Taylor plays a woman called Leonora and Farrow plays Cenci (pronounced Chenchee). The women, both dressed in black, meet on the top deck of a London double-decker bus. Cenci … Read more

Mr Klein

Monsieur Klein in the shadows

Mr Klein is a film about a mindset as much as a man or an event. The event is the Holocaust, the mindset is of a man called Mr Klein, played by Alain Delon, a French art dealer who, one day in 1942 in Nazi-occupied Paris, is tagged as being a Jew. But he isn’t Jewish, Mr Klein insists. Why the idea is laughable, absurd. Somewhere in Paris there’s obviously another Monsieur Klein who is Jewish, but I’m not that guy. This is nothing more than a simple case of mistaken identity. And for the rest of the film Monsieur Klein keeps up his protestations, turning detective to try and flush out the … Read more