The naked power and oblique tenderness of Edward Albee’s incisive, inhuman drama have been transformed from legit into a brilliant motion picture. Keen adaptation and handsome production by Ernest Lehman, outstanding direction by Mike Nichols in his feature debut, and four topflight performances score an artistic bullseye.
Elizabeth Taylor earns every penny of her reported $1 million plus. Her chacterization is at once sensual, spiteful, cynical, pitiable, loathsome, lustful and tender.
Richard Burton delivers a smash portrayal. He evokes sympathy during the public degradations to which his wife subjects him, and his outrage, as well as his deliberate vengeance, are totally believable.
Provoking the exercise in exorcism is the late-night visit of Dennis and Segal. Latter is the all-American boy type who, in the course of one night, is seduced by his hostess, exposed by his host, but enlightened as to more mature aspects of love and marriage. Segal is able to evoke sympathy, then hatred, then pity, in a first-rate performance.
Dennis makes an impressive screen debut as the young bride, her delivery rounded with the intended subtlety of a not-so-Dumb Dora.
1966: Best Actress (Elizabeth Taylor), Supp. Actress (Sandy Dennis), B&W Cinematography, B&W Art Direction, B&W Costume Design (Irene Sharaff).
Nominations: Best Picture, Director, Actor (Richard Burton), Supp. Actor (George Segal), Screenplay Adaptation, Editing, Original Music Score, Sound