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A typically heady serio-comic brew, adapted by Tennessee Williams from his own playlet The Milk Train Doesn't Stop Here Any More, in which an ageing beauty, awaiting death immured in her fortress home, finds fanciful comfort in the attentions of a wandering poet, known as the Angel of Death because he has a knack of being in at the kill when rich women die. Clearly written for an older woman and younger man, it gets Burton and Taylor, comfortably matched, making nonsense of theme and relationships, and giving monotonously unsubtle performances (she screeches, he glooms). The setting, not a fading Southern mansion but a bleakly beautiful Mediterranean island, also seems peculiarly alien to the atmosphere of hothouse decadence. Still, Losey and cameraman Douglas Slocombe make it look gorgeous in a pile-up of baroque detail; at times it almost seems as though it might blossom wittily into a chronicle of the declining years of Modesty Blaise.

Release details

Duration: 113 mins

Cast and crew

Director: Joseph Losey
Screenwriter: Tennessee Williams
Cast: Elizabeth Taylor
Richard Burton
Noël Coward
Joanna Shimkus
Michael Dunn
Romolo Valli
Veronica Wells
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