Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? DVD
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Directed by Mike Nichols
Produced in 1966
Main Language - English
Countries & Regions - American film
This superlative film adaptation of Edward Albee’s devastating, booze-soaked tragicomedy of love and hate (mainly hate) in a failed middle class marriage is memorable for a number of reasons. It was the first of Mike Nichols’ many stylish and sophisticated contributions to grown-up American cinema; it helped pave the way for the welcome excesses of ‘New Hollywood’ in its groundbreaking use of bad language (tame today, words like "bugger", "screw" and "hump" had Middle America gasping in the aisles in 1966); and it’s the only one of 11 movies off-screen couple Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor made together that can feasibly be called a classic.
Taylor, in particular, is at her career-best as Martha, the acid-tongued and blonde-bleached wife of George, a weary, dissatisfied professor of history at the Ivy League university where Martha’s father is president. The couple have long ago traded hope and aspiration for the volatile comforts of the liquor bottle; their home life has descended to a continuous stream of verbal sparring that ranges from the brutally vindictive to the waspishly affectionate. Into this destructive domesticity one night they invite George’s young colleague, biology professor Nick (George Segal), and his highly-strung wife Honey (Sandy Dennis). Needless to say, the fireworks intensify as the drink begins to flow; by the end of the stormy soiree, no-one is left unscathed.
Creatively bankrupt writers often seem to believe that any loud and histrionic argument equals intense drama (think EastEnders). But Edward Albee knew that a marathon slanging match needs poetry and imagination if it’s really to draw us in. Who’s Afraid of Viriginia Woolf? succeeds because it respects Albee’s original text, and because Burton and Taylor, even though they didn’t create the roles onstage, look born to play George and Martha.
The film bagged five Oscars: Taylor won Best Actress (for the second time); Burton, in probably his most effectively realised screen performance, narrowly missed out on Best Actor. Neither star was as good in anything else again.
Julian Upton on 1st September 2009
Author of 150 reviews
Nichols' rendition of Edward Albee's play benefits from the highly charged and relentlessly realistic performances from Burton and Taylor. Elegantly photographed in crisp black and white by the great Haskell Wexler, Mike Nichols' first directorial effort represents a milestone in psychological realism and foul language in American cinema. George and Martha, played superbly and without vanity by Taylor and Burton, are as far from the bourgeois 1950s perfect married couple as you can get .
The entire principal cast was nominated for Oscars, and Taylor, Dennis, and cinematographer Wexler won.
Publisher: Warner Bros.
Length: 124 mins
Aspect ratio: 1.78:1 widescreen
Cat No: 1000114137
Format: DVD B&W
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