As a great admirer of Richard Burton's filmwork, I snatched this set up immediately. All the films, save for Vicente Minnelli's "The Sandpiper" held my interest throughout, with "Virginia Woolf" and "The Comedians" (based on the Graham Greene novel) taking top honors.
"The VIPs" was a pleasant surprise as I was completely unfamilar with this Burton/Taylor venture. Supporting cast is excellent with Rod Taylor, Louis Jourdan (as Tayor's lover), and the unmistakably impressive Orson Welles, in a semi-comedic role opposite Elsa Martinelli.
Melodrama to be sure, but done with class, wit, and an engaging storyline that holds one's interest throughout its entire 119 minutes. It is amazing how some actors, like Burton and Taylor can take a relatively bit of fluff from Terrence Rattigan's screenplay, and transform it into something absorbing and grand.
What makes these films work? One would have to argue that the chemistry between Burton and Taylor in so many of their films was unmistakable; certainly Mike Nichol's "Virginia Woolf" is a masterpiece, but these are performers who have a intrinsic quality that is rarely seen in actors today--I think we would call it PRESENCE--players ultimately in command of their material and the roles they play who make acting seem effortless and entirely convincing. Burton is a master of roles. He can play the burnt-out professor in "Virginia Woolf" as well as a conflicted, upstanding minister and school headmaster whose life, contrained as his clerical collar, tempts an extramarital affair with the free-spirited mother (Taylor) of one of his students in "The Sandpiper."
The commentaries and extras on "Virginia Woolf" are both ample and exemplary, while shedding a new critical light on this classic play.