Our film this week is actually a bit of a classic, starring Elizabeth Taylor and the man she married twice, Richard Burton. Enjoy the sample of what a trailer was like in the 1960s and then we’ll move on to the review.
Unsurpisingly, the film (like almost any adaptation of the play I’ve seen) skips the Induction and jumps directly into the film proper with Lucentio and Tranio arriving in Padua. While Taylor and Burton are the only recognizable names in this film, fans of Gilmore Girls will recognize the actor playing Lucentio as Asher Fleming with some crazy facial hair going on. I didn’t particularly dig the actress playing Bianca, who came across as simpering and a little irritating. Elizabeth Taylor is really brilliant at playing the wildness of Kate, although the changes in her character still seem a little too quick. However, her crazy eyes and thousand-yard stare should be studied. Richard Burton’s interpretation of Petruchio didn’t really work for me. I have always seen Petruchio as a relatively sane man acting outlandishly in order to get his wife to chill out a little. However, Burton has made Petruchio a crude and frequently drunk man who’s just as crazy as his wife. There are brief flashes of his softer side, but overall, I didn’t find Petruchio particularly sympathetic.
The film focuses far more on the preliminaries and on Kate and Petruchio than any other aspect of the play with the first two acts taking up more than half of the film. Dialogue has also been played with, and while it’s all still Shakespeare, some lines are cut while others are repeated multiple times over the course of a scene. What I found most interesting was the inclusion of songs from other Shakespearean plays (I specifically noticed the closing song from Twelfth Night creeping in). Perhaps the most interesting touch was taking the first verbal exchange between Kate and Petruchio into a physical chase as well, which takes them all over the house, including up onto the ridgepole of the roof. Taylor and Burton’s chemistry is riveting of course and they truly make the scene work better, although a little less inarticulate huffing from Taylor would have been nice.
The costumes are very rich in that style that many films from the 60s seem to have. Elizabeth Taylor’s gowns are gorgeous, particularly her wedding dress (although the fact that the dress later gets dragged through water and mud makes me just a little sad). She’s also the only actress (ignoring the harlot with the crazy platform shoes) who has her cleavage shown off. All. The. Time. Burton’s costumes tend more towards the ridiculous, adding to the craziness of his character. One other notable look is Hortensio’s scholar disguise which looks a bit like a cross between Rasputin and a Marx brother.
As mentioned before, Kate’s transformation still seems a bit sudden and although Taylor does her best, that final speech still seems to come out of left field. However, the film makes the interesting choice of after having Kate make that speech and kiss Petruchio, she then disappears off into the crowd, leaving Petruchio to chase her once again in a way highly reminiscent of their first encounter.
Definitely a film that will appeal more to people that love other films that came out of the 60s, it’s a decent adaptation of the play, but ultimately it comes off as a vehicle for earning funds off the publicity gold mine that was Burton and Taylor’s first marriage. Next week we’re on to The Winter’s Tale. Until then, fair reader.