Back in 1967 when this film was first released the critics jumped all over it as a Richard Burton/Elizabeth Taylor vanity project which it was but that's all they saw. Now 40 years later with Liz and Dick having been supplanted by the likes of Brad and Angelina it's time to revisit the film which is ripe for rediscovery for there is much to discover that was overlooked the first time around. The beauty of Christopher Marlowe's play lies in the poetry of the lines and the philosophical and theological points the poet raises. Burton wanted to transfer the recent Oxford University stage production that he had appeared in onto film. The movie captures the stage origins but has been cleverly opened up for the screen in a number of ways which makes it a fascinating cinematic experience thanks to an imaginative use of lighting, beautiful cinematography, and a memorable music score from Mario Nascimbene (ONE MILLION YEARS B.C.). Elizabeth Taylor has no dialogue but appears throughout in a variety of outfits as a 1960s version of classical beauty.
Richard Burton's intense portrayal of the title character is a marvel to behold and serves as a vivid reminder of just what a charismatic performer he could be. His glorious voice speaks the Elizabethan text as if it were everyday conversation but with a power and conviction that must be heard to be believed. There are even DVD subtitles available if you wish to follow the text. The rest of the cast is made up of members of the Oxford Dramatic Society and they fufill the other roles as required with Andreas Teuber a standout as a rather melancholy Mephistopheles. Burton & co-drector Nevill Coghill have removed the comedy scenes between the serious ones which streamlines the play and makes it a more manageable length. No one seems interested in remaking DOCTOR FAUSTUS anytime soon so there is even more reason to celebrate this version which is not without its flaws but clearly shows what the play has to offer as a graet precursor to Shakespeare and how to make a major film on a minor budget. Unfortunately for most viewers in the U.K. only Region 1 copies are available at this time.