This is a delightful if peculiar story of a day in the life of a small, Welsh fishing village called "Llareggub" (read it backwards). We meet a host of curious characters (and ghosts) ... See full summary »
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 (... See full summary »
The venomous and amoral wife of a wealthy architect tries, any way she can, to break up the blossoming romance between her husband and his new mistress; a good-natured young widow who holds a dark past.
Brian G. Hutton
Faustus is a scholar at the University of Wittenberg when he earns his doctorate degree. His insatiable appetite for knowledge and power leads him to employ necromancy to conjure Mephistopheles out of hell. He bargains away his soul to Lucifer in exchange for living 24 years during which Mephistopheles will be his slave. Faustus signs the pact in his own blood and Mephistopheles reveals the works of the devil to Faustus.Written by
DOCTOR FAUSTUS (Richard Burton and Nevill Coghill, 1967) **1/2
Cerebral and altogether too-literal transcript of Christopher Marlowe’s venerable play – the end result is opulent yet claustrophobic, not to mention dull.
Burton the producer/director certainly made inspired choices for his collaborators – production designer John De Cuir, cinematographer Gabor Pogany, composer Mario Nascimbene. Burton the actor, then, is riveting as always (particularly the monologue towards the end) – but real-life spouse Elizabeth Taylor is simply ludicrous as Faustus’ object of desire (in various disguises including Helen of Troy)! The remaining cast is largely made up of Oxford University drama students (the University itself, of which Burton was a former graduate, partly financed the film!): of these, only Andreas Teuber’s bald-headed, monk-clad Mephistopheles manages a striking performance.
The “Mondo Digital” review had likened this to the cult horror films made by Hammer, Roger Corman and Mario Bava: judging by the campy Papal sequence (with a host of fey clergymen on whom Faustus plays childish pranks) and an equally tacky conjuring act before a medieval court, I’d say that Burton and Coghill probably drew more on the decadent work of Federico Fellini or Pier Paolo Pasolini than anything else! Anyway, the experimental nature of the film extends to the baffling over-use of a pointless ‘foggy’ effect; its depiction of lust, however, emerges as traditionally naïve – with frolicking satyrs in a garden setting and decorous female nudity (including Taylor herself for one very brief moment).
Ulimately, DOCTOR FAUSTUS is to be considered an interesting failure – a personal tour-de-force for Burton but which, perhaps, needed a steadier hand…say, Joseph Losey (with whom the two stars would soon work on BOOM! , curiously enough, a similar and equally maligned blend of fantasy and theatricality).
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