Home Video & DVD Reviews
    By Bruce Kluger

    20,000 Leagues Under the Sea (1954)
    Director: Richard Fleischer; cast: Kirk Douglas, James Mason, Paul Lukas, Peter
    For aficionados of literary adventure, it doesn't get much better
    than Jules Verne; for lovers of movie magic, Walt Disney is the
    man to beat. It's no surprise, then, that when Verne and Disney
    come together on the big screen, all bets are off. Film history
    was made in 1954 with the arrival of director Richard Fleischer's
    20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, the long-awaited Disney
    adaptation of Verne's underwater classic. Verne's story
    concerns an 18th-century mariner (Kirk Douglas) who is
    kidnapped on the high seas by Captain Nemo (James Mason),
    the mad pilot of a futuristic sub. A half century ago, this
    enthusiastically touted, high-megawatt extravaganza made waves within the
    industry for its grand scale and even grander production costs. But in the end, the
    efforts (and the salaries) paid off. The movie's still-breathtaking special effects—
    which include, among other pitched battles, the famed hand-to-tentacle combat with
    a mammoth squid—earned an Academy Award. Perfectionists take note: 20,000
    Leagues took full advantage of all Cinemascope had to offer, and subsequent TV
    showings and video releases have chopped up the film's panoramic vistas. So go
    for the letterboxed editions where available, and find yourself a great big TV.
    Bruce Kluger

    The Adventures of Robin Hood (1938)
    Director: Michael Curtiz, William Keighley; cast: Errol Flynn, Olivia de Havilland,
    Basil Rathbone, Claude Rains
    From the fine 1922 silent Robin Hood with Douglas Fairbanks to
    the Kevin Costner vehicle Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves,
    Sherwood Forest has been fertile ground for moviemaking. No
    version, though, says "Welcome to Sherwood," with anywhere
    near the pizzazz of this 1938 classic, in which Errol Flynn
    memorably utters that very line from atop a tree limb, smiling
    with the debonair grace that defined his legend. The story's
    framework is adventure 101: Robin takes on the bad guys in the
    name of justice and, after a few setbacks, emerges thrillingly
    victorious in a climactic showdown and wins the hand of Maid Marian. But this
    familiar setup seems more blueprint than boilerplate thanks to Flynn's inimitable
    screen charisma. Swashbuckling through the action sequences (sword fighting,
    wielding bow and arrow, swinging onto rooftops), Flynn turns in what most critics
    agree is the finest performance of his film career. Amazingly, Flynn wasn't even
    nominated for an Academy Award, although the movie did pick up Oscars for art
    direction, editing and Erich Wolfgang Korngold's thrilling score. The supporting
    cast, meanwhile, isn't exactly an amateur troupe. Joining Flynn in his adventures
    are, among others, Olivia de Havilland as Marian, Claude Rains as Prince John,
    and Basil Rathbone as Sir Guy of Gisborne. Together they make joyous movie
    magic, the swashbuckling adventure against which all others must be measured.
    Bruce Kluger

    All the President's Men (1976)
    Director: Alan J. Pakula; cast: Dustin Hoffman, Robert Redford, Jack Warden,
    Martin Balsam
    Hollywood customarily takes its time to plumb history, waiting
    decades—or even centuries—to explore the real-life drama of,
    say, the Vietnam War. But in the case of All the President's Men,
    director Alan J. Pakula set a particularly high bar for himself,
    depicting a complex chapter of American political history only
    two years after the actual events had transpired. Based on the
    prize-winning book by Washington Post reporters Bob
    Woodward and Carl Bernstein, the story details the step-by-step
    investigation of the Watergate scandal that led to the 1974
    resignation of President Richard Nixon. In preparing for their roles, Robert Redford
    and Dustin Hoffman did formidable legwork researching the intrepid journalists, and
    their efforts paid off—Redford conjuring to perfection Woodward's fastidious,
    almost irksome, penchant for exactitude; Hoffman painting Bernstein as a charming
    (if a bit reckless) go-getter with an eye for good copy and attractive women. And
    Jason Robards brings the right blend of grumpiness and grit to the role of Post
    editor Ben Bradlee. The story has a tragic inevitability—from an absurdly bungled
    break-in at an office building to the systematic crumbling of a presidential
    administration—which Pakula captures vividly in this edge-of-your-seat political
    thriller. —Bruce Kluger

    Black Stallion (1979)
    Director: Carroll Ballard; cast: Kelly Reno, Mickey Rooney, Teri Garr, Clarence
    Twenty-five minutes into The Black Stallion viewers may be
    astounded to discover that they have become thoroughly
    engrossed in a film that has, so far, featured almost no dialogue.
    Indeed, when director Carroll Ballard chose to adapt Walter
    Farley's boy-meets-horse children's tale for the big screen, he
    clearly decided to make the visuals speak for themselves. And
    as the story unfolds—from an ocean liner to a desert island to a
    racetrack—the potent beauty of the physical world, courtesy of
    cinematographer Caleb Deschanel, is the film's true headliner.
    Alec (Kelly Reno) is a young boy who, during a sea voyage with his father,
    discovers a dauntingly beautiful Arabian stallion in the ship's cargo hold. Just as
    Alec is beginning to make contact with the animal, an unexpected storm sinks the
    ship, landing the boy and the horse on an uninhabited isle. So begins a relationship
    as uniquely touching as it is unpredictable and untamed. Halfway into the movie, a
    new story line takes root—the boy is rescued and takes the stallion back home with
    him, where he befriends a horse trainer (Mickey Rooney) who turns him into a
    budding jockey. But what sustains the film through to its final frame is Ballard's
    commitment to his themes: the jaw-dropping majesty of nature and the invincibility
    of a boy's love. —Bruce Kluger

    The Borrowers (1997)
    Director: Peter Hewitt; cast: John Goodman, Jim Broadbent, Mark Williams, Hugh
    The canon of classic family films remains top-heavy with titles
    from the mid-Twentieth Century. Even Disney's grip on cinema
    began to slip by the late '60s, after the release of Mary Poppins
    in 1964. So when a film comes along that merits consideration
    among the great family adventures of all time, one would expect
    it to make a bigger splash than The Borrowers did upon its
    release in 1997. But certainly success at the fickle box-office is
    not aprerequisite for greatness; and in it's own charming way,
    this deft blend of modern-movie wizardry and old-fashioned
    storytelling is a film to be treasured. The Borrowers is based on Mary Norton's
    classic collection of tales about a family of four-inch folk who live beneath the
    floorboards of a British cottage, where they occasionally loot the belongings of the
    house's tenants, the Lenders. When an odious realtor (John Goodman) tries to
    evict the family and demolish the home, the Borrowers and Lenders join forces,
    ultimately leading to a face-off that is as satisfying to witness as it is skillfully
    executed. Although much of the action favors the conk-on-the-head style comedy
    popular in the '90s (as in the Home Alone series), the clever visuals—including
    large-scale sets and overblown props—keep the proceedings lively, as does
    Goodman's turn as the greedy land-grabber. He's perfectly despicable, and
    thoroughly delightful.Bruce Kluger

    Captains Courageous (1937)
    Director: Victor Fleming; cast: Spencer Tracy, Freddie Bartholomew, Lionel
    Barrymore, Melvyn Douglas
    In the latter part of his career, Spencer Tracy settled into a
    series of leading roles for which he became forever associated,
    from Hemingway's The Old Man and the Sea to Katharine
    Hepburn's foil in some of Hollywood's best romantic comedies,
    such as Adam's Rib. But in 1937, Tracy —then among the
    decathletes of character actorstook on the role of Manuel, the
    Portuguese fisherman in the screen adaptation of Rudyard
    Kipling's adventure tale, Captains Courageous. Equal parts
    action movie and allegory, the story concerns Harvey Cheyne
    (Freddie Bartholomew), a spoiled rich boy who, after falling from the deck of an
    ocean liner, is hauled from the sea by Manuel (Tracy), a doryman on a Gloucester
    fishing ship. Instead of returning the boy to shore, Manuel and his shipmates put
    Harvey to work, informing him that there's no going to shore until the ship's hold is
    full of fish. While the rest of the film provides enough action and scenery to hold the
    attention of viewers both young and old, its best attraction is in watching Tracy dole
    out the kind of wisdom, guidance, and love that Harvey, and any child, so clearly
    requires. Tracy won an Oscar for his performance, which is supported by, among
    others: Melvyn Douglas as Harvey's well-meaning tycoon dad; Lionel Barrymore, as
    the fishing vessel's wise, crusty captain; and Mickey Rooney as a young mate on
    the ship. It remains among the great all time screen yarns.Bruce Kluger

    The Color Purple (1985)
    Director: Steven Spielberg; cast: Danny Glover, Whoopi Goldberg, Margaret Avery,
    Oprah Winfrey
    The Color Purple was not it familiar territory for a moviemaker
    whose glittering screen career had relied so far on man-eating
    sharks, flying saucers and extraterrestrials. Yet, in the end,
    Steven Spielberg's adaptation of Alice Walker's Pulitzer Prize-
    winning novel transcended his other works, in part because it
    was so different. Whoopi Goldberg gives a heart-breaking,
    Oscar-nominated performance as Celie, a Southern black
    woman who in the early years of the 20th century finds herself a
    slave within her own home—married to a violently abusive
    sharecropper (Danny Glover) and still suffering the loss of her sister, from whom
    she'd been forcibly separated when they were young girls. The script dips and
    soars through a series of poignant, sometimes melodramatic vignettes involving
    racist mobs, illicit love affairs and religious salvation, the latter scenes backed by a
    clapping and stomping gospel choir. Through it all Spielberg effectively captures
    the small but crucial victories of the human spirit which punctuate the story and
    make for an original and uplifting film. —Bruce Kluger

    The English Patient (1996)
    Director: Anthony Minghella; cast: Ralph Fiennes, Juliette Binoche, Willem Dafoe,
    Kristin Scott Thomas
    Adapted from Michael Ondaatje's novel by writer-director
    Anthony Minghella, The English Patient unspools the story of
    Laszlo Almasy (Ralph Fiennes), a Hungarian mapmaker
    recovering, in an abandoned monastery in Italy, from a near-
    fatal plane crash. Because he is barely able to speak, his nurse
    and caretaker, Hana (Juliette Binoche), reassembles his life
    story from his random writings and what remains of his rapidly
    deteriorating memory. This unusual narrative assured that The
    English Patient would be a most unconventional World War II
    film, one without many of the customary foot soldiers or storm troopers. The book
    evokes the trackless dunes of the Sahara Desert and the elegantly rustic retreats
    of North Africa, escaping into the locales of Almasy's memories. And in a brilliant
    achievement of cinematic art, Minghella manages to distill the book's passion and
    pour it forth in a fluid narrative. Almasy's mysterious past and, most compellingly,
    his passionate love affair with a married Englishwoman (Kristin Scott Thomas), drive
    the film's action—while the hopeful subplot of Hana's love affair with a handsome
    Sikh anchors the film in the nurse's reality. Breathtakingly romantic, The English
    Patient earned nine Academy Awards, including Best Picture, Best
    Cinematography, and Best Score. —Bruce Kluger

    Fantastic Voyage (1966)
    Director: Richard Fleischer; cast: Stephen Boyd, Raquel Welch, Edmond O'Brien,
    Donald Pleasence
    A decade before Star Wars proved that movies could
    triumphantly transport us beyond the province of our own
    physical universe, a unique film had its engines in reverse,
    charting an excursion not into the great beyond, but within the
    mysterious confines of the human body. So inventive are the
    premise and execution of Fantastic Voyage that fans continue to
    regard it as a milestone of cinematic sci-fi, both in terms of its
    commercial success and its universal appeal. Part adventure
    tale and part thriller, the story concerns a group of scientists
    (led by Stephen Boyd) who are miniaturizedalong with their high-tech submarine
    and injected into the bloodstream of a dying scientist in order to save his life.
    Among Boyd's intrepid scientific team are sci-fi favorite Donald Pleasance (Escape
    From New York) and Raquel Welch, at the time moviedom's newest bombshell. An
    Oscar-winner for Cinematography, Art Direction, Sound Effects, Visual Effects, and
    Editing, perhaps the film's greatest achievement is in the way its story remains
    riveting despite all the eye-popping visuals. If high school anatomy classes were
    anywhere near this fascinating, we'd be a nation of doctors. Bruce Kluger

    Gandhi (1982)
    Director: Richard Attenborough; cast: Ben Kingsley, Candice Bergen, Edward Fox,
    Sir John Gielgud
    In his epic masterpiece Gandhi, director Richard Attenborough
    explores the inspiring, complicated life of Mohandas K. Gandhi,
    the Indian lawyer who through ideological conviction and an
    impassioned sense of political justice went on to become the
    spiritual leader of a nation and the symbol of its hard-won
    independence. Ben Kingsley won an Oscar in the title role, and
    he is supported by an all-star cast that includes Candice Bergen
    as photographer Margaret Bourke-White and John Gielgud as
    Lord Irwin. This is a big story to tell, and Attenborough tackles
    his subject head on, zeroing in on those critical events in Gandhi's life that
    propelled him along his historic journey: his awakening to the injustice of Britain's
    resistance to Indian independence; his renunciation of his personal effects; his
    development of a "passive resistance" strategy in retaliation against the British
    army (which later inspired Dr. Martin Luther King); and, most memorably, his
    dramatic fasting in the name of his cause. As Gandhi, Kingsley, turns in an
    unforgettable performance, cloaking himself in the indomitable spirit of the soft-
    spoken yet determined pacifist, as he seamlessly evolves from citizen to statesman
    to modern-day messiah. —Bruce Kluger

    The Great Race (1965)
    Director: Blake Edwards; cast: Jack Lemmon, Tony Curtis, Natalie Wood, Peter
    With S.O.B., Victor/Victoria and the Pink Panther series, director
    Blake Edwards perfected the craft of extracting the ridiculous
    from the sublime, while managing to throw in a healthy dose of
    slapstick in the process. The Great Race was no exception to
    this winning formula, as Edwards assembled an all-star cast and
    a fast-paced script to create a textbook model of the big-screen
    comedy adventure. As a story, the movie skewers a real bit of
    history—the turn-of-the-century automobile contests that were
    as emblematic of the times as bowler hats and bustles. In the
    film, do-gooder Tony Curtis (his pearly whites reflecting the sun's rays like
    diamonds) faces off against nefarious Jack Lemmon in a 22,000-mile auto race
    from New York to Paris (you read that right). Add to the mix a third driver, Natalie
    Wood as a suffragette out to prove that women can press the pedal to the metal
    like any man, and you've got a two-and-a-half-hour joyride that can stand among
    the big-screen spectaculars of the era. (The film arrived in theaters in 1965, only
    two years after It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World and the same year as Those
    Magnificent Men and Their Flying Machines.) In fact, just as you're thinking that
    Edwards has loaded up the film with everything but a free-for-all pie fight—alas,
    one breaks out! And like everything else in this old-fashioned romp of a movie, it's
    joyfully over the top. —Bruce Kluger

    Jason and the Argonauts (1963)
    Director: Don Chaffey; cast: Todd Armstrong, Nancy Kovack, Gary Raymond,
    Laurence Naismith
    Greek mythology has been grist for the movie mill since the
    beginning—from the 1918 Hungarian silent Aphrodite to Woody
    Allen's fractured fable Mighty Aphrodite in 1995. But what makes
    the 1963 screen adaptation of Jason and the Argonauts stand
    out from the pack is the special-effects mastery of Ray
    Harryhausen who, in a time before Industrial Light & Magic and
    Pixar, stood alone as the one-man-band of movie magic. Having
    already treated film fans to a smorgasbord of dazzling eye
    candy—from the murky inhabitants of It Came from Beneath the
    Sea (1955) to the soaring spaceships of Earth vs. the Flying Saucers (1956)—
    Harryhausen pulled out all the stops for this popular Greek myth. Jason (Todd
    Armstrong), in an honorable quest for the Golden Fleece, receives aid from the
    goddess Hera (portrayed by Honor Blackman, one year before her turn as Pussy
    Galore in the Bond thriller Goldfinger). Despite Jason's derring-do, it is Hera's
    divine intervention that spares him in a series of encounters with Harryhausen-
    inspired nemeses, including: a multi-noggined hydra, a statue-come-to-life and, in
    the film's most memorable segment, a septet of sword-fighting skeletons. Parents
    will admire the rich cinematic history of Jason and the Argonauts; kids will just find it
    a blast to watch. —Bruce Kluger

    Laura (1944)
    Director: Otto Preminger; cast: Gene Tierney, Dana Andrews, Clifton Webb,
    Vincent Price
    In many ways, Otto Preminger's hypnotically stylish adaptation of
    Vera Caspary's novel (and his first major feature) adheres to
    film noir conventions. It is a dark, melodramatic thriller, awash in
    cool shadows and snappy dialogue. Yet the film also possesses
    an air of refined urbanity and offbeat elegance, qualities not
    usually found among the moody mysteries and tortured love
    stories of the noir genre. Plotwise, Laura hits the ground
    running. In the opening sequences, we quicklylearn that titular
    beauty Laura Hunt (Gene Tierney) has been found on the floor
    of her home, murdered. Almost immediately, it is up to detective Mark McPherson
    (Dana Andrews) to find the killer. Aided only by a breathtaking portrait of the
    deceased, McPherson systematically grills the small coterie of eccentrics who knew
    her best and, in the process, finds he is falling in love with her. The compelling
    whodunit story line—including a surprise appearance by Laura herself—keeps
    viewers riveted, but it is Preminger's casting of the film that makes it unforgettable.
    Before Laura, neither of the leads was a Hollywood superstar; yet under
    Preminger's baton, Andrews transforms McPherson into a man possessed, while
    Tierney turns in the most glamorous role of her film career. (Both actors would work
    with Preminger again, notably in the 1950 noir jewel, Where the Sidewalk Ends.)
    Broadway veteran Clifton Webb also drew raves with his winning turn as sassy
    columnist Waldo Lydecker, and composer David Raksin contributed the stirring title
    theme—itself a classic study in enigmatic beauty. —Bruce Kluger

    The Man from Snowy River (1982)
    Director: George Miller; cast: Kirk Douglas, Kirk Douglas, Jack Thompson, Tom
    At first blush, the notion of converting an epic Australian poem
    into an old-style western, setting it Down Under, and convincing
    a legendary American actor to take the lead role—make that two
    lead roles—would seem dubious, at best. Yet somehow 1982's
    The Man From Snowy River, starring Kirk Douglas, managed to
    transcend its unconventional ingredients to become one of the
    more beloved family films of its time. The story concerns a willful
    Aussie mountain man (Tom Burlinson) who takes a job working
    for a cattle baron and falls in love with the boss's daughter
    (Sigrid Thornton). Along the way, he becomes entangled in a
    sour feud over land, as well as a desperate mission to rescue a runaway stallion.
    Douglas plays both the powerful cattleman and his estranged twin brother—a
    crusty prospector named Spur—with the resonating perfection that has become the
    hallmark of his career. Chock full of pulse-quickening action scenes and eye-
    popping scenery, especially the rich mountain vistas of the Australian frontier, the
    movie found its largest audience on video, and even went on to inspire a sequel
    (Return to Snowy River, 1988). Alas, like most movie follow-ups, the sequel only
    makes us long for the original. —Bruce Kluger

    My Left Foot (1989)
    Director: Jim Sheridan; cast: Daniel Day-Lewis, Ray McAnally, Brenda Fricker, Ruth
    Throughout his film career, actor Daniel Day-Lewis has
    consistently— and seemingly effortlessly—tapped into the
    machismo and swagger of the many characters he's chosen to
    portray -- from the rugged settler of Last of the Mohicans to a
    former IRA soldier in The Boxer to the irrepressible rake of The
    Unbearable Lightness of Being. All of which makes his Oscar-
    winning performance in My Left Foot so worthy of recognition.
    Playing the real-life Christy Brown—the renowned Irish author
    and painter who suffered from cerebral palsy—Day-Lewis was
    called upon to recreate Brown's unsettling infirmities and unusual gifts, none of
    which were particularly pretty to look at. Grunting his words through a contorted
    mask of tics and winces, Day-Lewis learned to use, as Brown did, the only
    unafflicted part of his body—a foot—for his daily functions. Still, to many critics, the
    actor's greatest achievement was his ability to make the audience care about
    Brown without compromising the character's more unattractive qualities, namely a
    volatile temperament and drunken belligerence. While the plot of the film turns on
    Brown's many relationships—notably with his unassailable mother (Brenda Fricker,
    who also won an Academy Award for her performance) and his nurse, with whom he
    falls in love—My Left Foot is at its most effective when simply celebrating a man's
    startling triumph over insurmountable odds. —Bruce Kluger

    Raging Bull (1980)
    Director: Martin Scorsese; cast: Robert De Niro, Cathy Moriarty, Joe Pesci, Frank
    Four years after Sylvester Stallone's Rocky had elevated the art
    of boxing to mythic, even romantic heights, Martin Scorsese's
    Raging Bulla biography of middleweight fighter Jake La
    Motta—pulled the canvas from beneath the sport, revealing a
    dark and dangerous world inhabited not by punchy, loveable
    wannabes, but by brutes and bullies. Scorsese opted to shoot
    the film in black-and-white, effectively evoking the documentary
    grittiness so essential to the movie's feel, and his screenplay
    (cowritten by Paul Schrader) makes no apologies for La Motta's
    violent, abusive behavior, which was primarily directed at his wife (played superbly
    by newcomer Cathy Moriarity) and brother (Joe Pesci). Thelma Schoonmaker's
    Oscar-winning editing depicts boxing not as a graceful, slo-mo ballet of swinging
    arms, but instead as a sport whose punches and uppercuts draw blood and actually
    hurt. The true heart and soul of Raging Bull though, is Robert De Niro, whose La
    Motta boils over with the raw anger of a man possessed. So conscientious was De
    Niro's approach to the role that he even called a halt to the filming so he could gain
    50 pounds to play the boxer in his later years. It is a tour-de-force performance that
    set a new standard for acting, and helped make Raging Bull among the most
    revered movies of the 1980s. —Bruce Kluger

    Superman: The Movie (1978)
    Director: Richard Donner; cast: Marlon Brando, Gene Hackman, Christopher
    Reeve, Margot Kidder
    Nowadays moviegoers don't raise an eyebrow when Hollywood
    announces the imminent arrival of a big-budget, blockbusting
    action film based on a comic strip. But back in 1978—before
    Batman, Spawn, and X-Men—director Richard Donner took the
    cinema world by storm, ducking into a phone booth a mild-
    manned moviemaker, and emerging an industry darling, with
    what would become the mother of all superhero epics.
    Superman: The Movie set standards for comic book adventures
    to follow. It's star, newcomer Christopher Reeve, was jaw-
    droppingly handsome—not to mention the spitting image of the original pen-and-ink
    incarnation. The plot was basic—alien baby escapes doomed home planet, arrives
    on Earth, is adopted by midwestern farmers, develops superpowers, and becomes
    a crime-fighting "Man of Steel"—and true to the original. Equally important, since
    such movies must compete with powerful, preconceptions, the special effects
    defined the cutting-edge of their day. This was arguably the first film of the modern
    era in which the flying didn't look hokey and faked—nearly delivering on the
    marketing tag of "You will believe a man can fly." To ensure the film's success,
    Donner assembled a letter-perfect cast of costars, including Gene Hackman as the
    deliciously wicked Lex Luthor, Margot Kidder as sassy Daily Planet reporter and
    Mrs. Superman wannabe Lois Lane; and Marlon Brando, in his much ballyhooed,
    million-dollar return to the screen, as the caped hero's dad. Few superhero flicks
    before or since have come anywhere near this film's creative punch. —Bruce Kluger

    Vertigo (1958)
    Director: Alfred Hitchcock; cast: James Stewart, Kim Novak, Barbara Bel Geddes,
    Tom Helmore
    Released in 1958, Alfred Hitchcock's Vertigo was the first of a
    four-movie run—North By Northwest, Psycho, and The Birds
    followed—that would embody the essence of the director's
    mastery of his craft and his inimitable knack for telling a scary
    story. Vertigo introduced Hollywood to an intangible but
    eminently destructive villain: obsession. Jimmy Stewart plays a
    retired police investigator hired by an old college pal to secretly
    follow his wife (Kim Novak), whom the friend says is behaving
    strangely. As Stewart trails Novak through the bayside parks of
    San Francisco, backed only by Bernard Herrmann's mesmerizing score, he
    becomes mysteriously, and romantically, fixated on her. A series of plot twists—
    including an apparent suicide, an act of betrayal and the titular psychological
    disorder suffered by Stewart—ultimately upends the action, and the film reaches a
    fevered crescendo. Based on the French novel D'entres les Morts, Vertigo was
    originally met with a lukewarm reception by critics. In the years since, however, it
    has become one of Hitchcock's most analyzed, and admired, films. Bruce Kluger

    Mike Nichols (The Graduate) made one of the most auspicious
    directorial debuts in the history of cinema with his screen version
    of Edward Albee's emotionally volatile domestic drama. A
    relentless assault of wrenching revelations and barked
    expletives that had knocked Broadway theatergoers out of their
    seats three years earlier, Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? won
    five Oscars, with nominations going to every member of the cast.
    (Elizabeth Taylor won for Best Actress; Sandy Dennis for Best
    Supporting Actress.) The film is a superb showcase for screen
    veterans Taylor and Richard Burton, who deliver tour-de-force performances as
    Albee's vituperative protagonists: George, an alcoholic college professor, and
    Martha, his loud and emasculating wife. Throughout the course of a liquor-
    drenched evening, the couple reveal to each other—and their guests, played by
    Dennis and George Segal—the dark and ugly truths about their marriage. Nichols
    and screenwriter Ernest Lehman were successful in retaining the play's salty
    language, which at the time of the movie's 1966 release was considered quite racy.
    By opening up the play just enough to keep movie audiences riveted, while
    remaining faithful to Albee's searing material, Nichols created an unforgettable
    portrait of a dysfunctional marriage. —Bruce Kluger