Flora Goforth (Elizabeth Taylor), known as Sissy, is a reclusive millionairess who lives on an island off the coast of Italy where she is dictating her memoirs, or that's the idea at any rate as she is ailing from a terminal illness. She refuses to admit she's beaten even though she has closed herself off from the world, and she has her chief of security, Rudi (Michael Dunn), set guard dogs and machine gun fire on anyone who arrives uninvited, but today there is someone who is set on meeting with her. He is Christopher Flanders (Richard Burton), and he has been getting himself a reputation - not only as a poet, but as a man who heralds death...
Elizabeth Taylor had already enjoyed considerable success in two film adaptations of Tennessee Williams plays during the fifties, and the writer's works enjoyed an artistic cachet that made them popular, so why not make it a third with this, taken by Williams himself from his own "The Milk Train Doesn't Stop Anymore"? Well, one good reason was that this play had been an outright disaster on the stage - twice - so expecting Taylor and her then-husband Richard Burton to lift its critical standing was asking too much, especially as after Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? they were more successful at appearing in the pages of the gossip mags than at any acting endeavours together.
So it was that once Boom was released, the reaction was damning, with terrible reviews across the board and worse for the filmmakers, hardly anybody was interested in paying money to see it, leaving it stranded as part of a too-long line of Taylor-Burton movies that only fans of outright camp would champion as entertaining. Certainly that's the audience who appreciate this film today, and Taylor's explosive line readings are the source of much hilarity - not to mention her extraordinary headgear - but actually she's more shrill than anything else, raising the odd titter with one bellowed item of dialogue after another, though oddly appropriate for such a brittle character as the one she portrays.
As for her husband, Burton seemed happy enough to be there and imparting his speeches, and he does get quite a few, with a gravitas only his rich Welsh tones could lend them. When he starts reciting "In Xanadu did Kubla Khan..." only to be cut off with a mighty "WHAAAT?" from Sissy it is either ridiculous or a shame that we didn't get to hear him speak the rest of it without interruption. Yet the truth is that he was really too old for the role of what should have been a toyboy, and indeed if he and Taylor had swapped roles then the result might have been more believable, even if that famed figure of her's was starting to look somewhat dumpy as she headed towards her forties.
It's not only those two stars who hog the limelight in this, as none other than Noel Coward showed up as well as the so-called Witch of Capri, firing off his lines with the dry delivery of snapping twigs as he alerts Sissy to the fact that Flanders has a habit of turning up at the homes of wealthy women and waiting with them until they die. Of course, it takes frequent fits of coughing up blood for Taylor to convince us that she's playing someone at death's door, and even then she displays such force of personality and Burton such listlessness that you half expect him to be the one who will pass away at the end. Boom has been accused by many of pretension, and you can see why as Williams appeared to have lost his touch, not to mention director Joseph Losey hitting one of his downward spirals too, mistaking bombast for profundity being the most blatant of their errors, but for star fanciers this does exert a hold on the attention, and isn't as boring as its reputation, if you can call that a recommendation. Music by John Barry.
Cerebral, at times pretentious, American director, from the theatre. His American career (The Boy with Green Hair, a remake of M, The Prowler) was short-lived due to the Hollywood anti-Communist blacklist, and Losey escaped to Britain.