Doctor Faustus (1967)
“The story of a scientist who sells his soul to the devil”
Director: Richard Burton, Nevill Coghill
Cast: Elizabeth Taylor, Richard Burton, Andreas Teuber
Synopsis: A man sells his soul to the devil in order to have the woman he loves.
This movie is clearly Richard Burton’s vanity project and, despite the draw of his name, the budget is probably limited due to the nature of the project. A 400-year-old play performed in old-English is never going to be a huge box-office draw no matter whose name tops the cast list.
The movie itself gets better as it goes along. From a slow, stilted start the viewer is gradually drawn into Doctor Faustus’ life until, at the film’s climax, the doctor’s terror and despair as the time for him to fulfil his side of the pact with Lucifer draws nearer, is all too vivid. That Burton’s performance becomes a little effusive at times is perhaps inevitable given the nature of the part and Burton’s tendency to barnstorm a little when performing the classics.
The sets are small and cluttered and, unfortunately, the entire movie looks as if it was performed on discarded sets from a TV episode of Star Trek. The special effects, however, are actually fairly reasonable considering the era in which it was filmed and the budget constraints.
In summary, Doctor Faustus isn’t an easy movie to watch; it requires patience and concentration from the audience, and the casual viewer looking for a little undemanding’1960’s horror definitely won’t last beyond the first 20 minutes.
(Reviewed 15th February 2002)