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The Faust legend retold (loosely) and applied to a mentally disturbed patient in a hospital run by a doctor of dubious sanity himself. The patient (Burton) offers the innocent orderly (Bridges) vast riches if he'll help him escape. Written by
Steve Crook <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Director Peter Ustinov asked actor Richard Burton to never blink in the film so as to convey Hammersmith's awesome psychotic sociopathic power. Similarly, one of the inspirations that Anthony Hopkins borrowed from for his interpretation of Hannibal Lecter for The Silence of the Lambs (1991) was a friend of his in London who never blinked which unnerved anyone around him. See more »
[taking Hammersmith back to the asylum]
It's the end of a chapter, Hammersmith; time to turn the page.
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Slow-witted nut-house orderly Beau Bridges (as William "Billy" C. Breedlove) smells his shirts to determine which to wear, cleans up with breath spray and goes out to the local diner. There, he is fully serviced by beautiful blonde-wigged waitress Elizabeth Taylor (as Jimmie Jean Jackson). The horny pair make plans to run away with criminally insane inmate Richard Burton (as Hammersmith), after Mr. Bridges helps him escape from the asylum. Bridges has made a Faustian deal with Mr. Burton, who is either the devil or a very close associate. With the Burtons on his side, Bridges becomes filthy rich, but there is a price to pay...
This was the last of the Taylor/Burton feature films, which peaked with "Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?" (1966). Many of the couple's subsequent films are so startlingly bad you wonder what was behind their collective thought process. Faust was a favorite topic (especially for Richard) and having smugly humorous Peter Ustinov as director and co-star certainly helps. Today, the tame sex scenes and long segment with the trio out enjoying a topless band called "The Tits" in a topless bar aren't much, but they were not widely distributable in 1972. The film was meant as a comedy for arty urban cinema audiences, apparently...
There were some good reviews and Taylor won a "Best Actress" award at the Berlin Film Festival, but "Hammersmith" didn't exactly set the world on fire. Taylor is typically vulgar - very appealing as the hash-slinging waitress - but the character eventually becomes her standard shrew; this makes its own point, however, in the context of the film. Burton appears pickled but pleased, and Bridges has fun being grungy. Reading "Studies in Anal Retention", Mr. Ustinov keeps his tongues in cheek. Assistant orderly Anthony Holland (as Oldham) secretly enjoys his time in Beau's bed. In a sexy black bathing suit, Taylor splashes water on a perfectly fine copy of "Flash" comics (#205, April/May 1971). The door was left open for a sequel, but got shut up...
******* Hammersmith Is Out (5/12/72) Peter Ustinov ~ Elizabeth Taylor, Richard Burton, Beau Bridges, Peter Ustinov
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