Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton Film Collection – DVD Review

DVD available at Amazon.com

The V.I.P.s
Anthony Asquith

Elizabeth Taylor….Frances Andros
Richard Burton….Paul Andros
Louis Jourdan….Marc Champselle
Margaret Rutherford….The Dutchess of Brighton
Maggie Smith….Miss Mead
Rod Taylor….Les Mangrum
Orson Welles….Max Buda

Warner Home Video presents The V.I.P.s. Screenplay by Terence Rattigan. Running time: 119 minutes. Unrated. Theatrical release Sept 19, 1963. DVD released Dec. 5, 2006.

The Sandpiper
Vincente Minnelli

Elizabeth Taylor….Laura Reynolds
Richard Burton….Dr. Edward Hewitt
Eva Marie Saint…Claire Hewitt
Charles Bronson….Cos Erickson
Robert Webber….Ward Hendricks
James Edwards….Larry Brant
Morgan Mason….Danny Reynolds

Warner Home Video presents The Sandpiper. Screenplay by Dalton Trumbo & Michael Wilson. Running time: 117 minutes. Unrated. Theatrical release June 23, 1965. DVD released Dec. 5, 2006.

Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?
Mike Nichols

Elizabeth Taylor….Martha
Richard Burton….George
George Segal….Nick
Sandy Dennis….Honey

Warner Home Video presents Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolfe. Screenplay by Ernest Lehman. Running time: 131 minutes. Unrated. Theatrical release June 21, 1966. DVD released Dec. 5, 2006.

The Comedians
Peter Glenville

Elizabeth Taylor….Martha Pineda
Richard Burton….Brown
Alec Guinness….Major H.O. Jones
Peter Ustinov….Ambassador Manuel Pineda
Paul Ford….Smith
Lillian Gish….Mrs. Smith
James Ear Jones….Dr. Magiot
Roscoe Lee Browne….Petit Pierre

Warner Home Video presents The Comedians. Screenplay by Graham Greene. Running time: 152 minutes. Unrated. Theatrical release Oct 31, 1967. DVD released Dec. 5, 2006.

When Elizabeth Taylor hooked up with Richard Burton on the set of Cleopatra, the world was shocked. The most beautiful actress in the world and the brooding Welsh thespian threw caution to the wind (along with their spouses) to consummate the sweet fire of love. Before there was Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie, the scandal sheets were filled with talk of Liz and Dick. The couple used this publicity to make nearly a dozen movies together.

The V.I.P.s is a movie that resembles a Love Boat episode if instead of a boat, the show took place in an airport. Burton and Taylor play a married couple, but they’re not close to being happy. They arrive at Heathrow’s V.I.P. lounge, but they’re taking separate flights. Taylor’s carry-on luggage includes a European gigolo. When the London fog shuts down all the flights and the passengers return to the V.I.P. lounge, Burton discovers his wife’s travel plans. He doesn’t want to lose his woman and his hot temper explodes across the screen. He tries to win her back with a full force brooding offensive. The film isn’t satisfied with this trio’s traumas. We get a lot of fog-bound side characters to lighten the heaviness with comic relief. Orson Welles plays a movie producer who needs to get out of London or he’ll lose his tax exile status. Margaret Rutherford is a thrifty Duchess who flies economy class, but expects the royal treatment. The trailer shows that the producers sold this film on letting the audience get a glimpse at Liz and Dick in their natural jet setting state of life. The movie has as much impact as your in-flight dinner.

The Sandpiper illustrates the taboo nature of Liz and Dick’s love (even though they were married by this point). Liz is a single mother living in Big Sur. Her son kills a deer which gets him in trouble with the law. But instead of being shipped off to reform school, he’s forced to enroll in a religious boarding school that’s run by Richard Burton, a married minister. The exterior shots of Big Sur are breathtaking. The ocean laps up on the rugged cliffs covered in trees. Almost as breath taking is the rugged exterior of Charles Bronson. He plays a sculptor even though we know his preferred to work in bruises. Of all the landscapes shown on the screen, the most amazing vista is Liz’s bosom. She assumes numerous positions that allow her cleavage to hang across the screen. There’s even a nude redwood sculpture of Liz that chisels out her breasts complete with erect nipples. All this chest action proves too much for the minister and he gives in the sinful delights. But will he expose his new artistic passion to his wife?

Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf is the reason to buy this boxset. Burton plays a professor at a small college. Taylor is his berating wife. When they bare fangs on each other, they deliver the best married couple performance in cinematic history. This is not proper viewing for a cozy romantic evening. It is one nasty mindscrew as Liz and Dick “entertain” a young couple. I repeat: Do not rent this as a “date night” selection. The movie is an adaption of Edward Albee’s play and it loses none of the piss and vinegar of the stage. Dick and Liz really drop their gloves. It’s easy to understand that this might have been the hot-tempered love they shared. This is Mike Nichols’ first movie, but there’s nothing freshman about the effort.

The Comedians attempts to be a noble film like other Graham Greene novel adaptations such as The Quiet American and The Third Man. Burton plays a hotel owner in Haiti who is coping with the reign of “Papa Doc” Duvalier. He’s having a hard time getting guests with the Tonton Macoute eliminating people who dare speak against Papa Doc. The Tonton are vicious men with hats, shades and machetes that supposedly take the bodies of their victims back to Baby Doc’s palace in order to create zombie servants. Even though the island is a tropical paradise, Haiti is not a tourist mecca. The only thing giving Burton pleasure is an occasional tryst with an ambassador’s wife played by Liz. Alec Guiness arrives on the island as a former British soldier who has turned to arms dealing. While the film speaks of the revolution to overthrow Papa Doc, history has shown that he and his son, Baby Doc, controlled the country for another two decades. The film is interesting, but not as profound as it pretends to be. Burton is the perfect Greene character with his solitary, faithless, drunk existence. But the film loses too much of its intensity when Burton realizes he can’t remained removed from the revolution movement.

Of the four films in this collection, Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf is the masterpiece, The Comedians is a misfire and the remaining two are voyeuristic fluff for those wanting to get a glimpse at the glamourous couple that dared to live their scandalous love in public.

The DVD:

Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf is 1.85:1 anamorphic. It’s also in black and white. The other three films are color and 2.35:1 anamorphic. The films look good for their age.

The soundtracks are Dolby Digital Mono along with French dubs. The subtitles for Woolf are in English, French, Spanish, Portuguese and Korean. The other three films only have subtitles in English, French and Spanish . Woolf also contains a commentary track with Mike Nichols and Steven Soderbergh.


Statue for the Sandpiper (4:28) follows the artist hired to make the redwood statue of Elizabeth Taylor for the film. Nobody asks Richard Burton if the artist truly captured Liz’s breasts and nipple size.

The Big Sur (8:29) is a promo film dealing with shooting on location. It actually mentions Henry Miller as one of the folks that brought this artist community into the spotlight. There’s a lot of footage of locals bathing amongst the stunning scenery.

Elizabeth Taylor: An Intimate Portrait (1:06:20) is a documentary about her life that was made in 1975. The clips are not from decent sources. While Taylor doesn’t appear, Rock Hudson shows up for an interview with Peter Lawford.

A Daring Work of Raw Excellence(20:10) explains how a very controversial play was brought to Hollywood without turning it into cute, romantic comedy. Playwright Edward Albee speaks of his reservations for the project and how he felt about the final cinematic work.

Too Shocking for Its Time (10:34) deals with how the MPAA had to handle a piece of art that was made for adults instead of the whole family. Former-MPAA head Jack Valenti explains how this movie ushered in the ratings system.

1966 Mike Nichols interview (8:56) is taken from his appearance on the Today Show. He speaks about his fun with Dick and Liz.

Sandy Dennis screen test (7:08) proves how an actress can nail a role even before the production starts. Roddy McDowall plays against her.

Taylor/Burton Movie Trailer Gallery has all four of the trailers for the films in the collection.

The DVD Lounge’s Ratings for Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton Film Collection
(OUT OF 10)