There appears to be no truth in the rumor that spread in the 1980s to the effect that Richard Burton had so disliked this movie that he had bought the negative and had it destroyed so that no one would ever see it again. However, it is a very hard movie to see, despite its stars.
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This movie has never officially been released on DVD, but has previously been released on videocassette.
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The movie was shot in Mexico due to budgetary and financial restraints.
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Sir Peter Ustinov, Richard Burton, and Dame Elizabeth Taylor previously worked together on The Comedians (1967), while Taylor and Ustinov had also worked on Quo Vadis (1951) and Beau Brummell (1954).
Richard Burton's characterization of Hammersmith in this movie has been considered somewhat of a precursor to Sir Anthony Hopkins' screen characterization of Hannibal Lecter in The Silence of the Lambs (1991), Hannibal (2001), and Red Dragon (2002). Both characters, "Hannibal" and "Hammersmith", are genius inmates who wear straitjackets, both are psycho killers, both stare with their eyes rolled to the top of their eyelids, and both escaped from a psychiatric institution.
Famed mail-order lingerie business "Fredericks of Hollywood" received on-screen credit for some of Dame Elizabeth Taylor's costumes.
Noting that fledgling Producer J. Cornelius Crean had made his money as a mobile home manufacturer, Variety Magazine panned this movie and cracked that Crean should stick to trailers, not features.
This was the only movie produced by J. Cornelius Crean.
This movie is considered to be based on the Faust legend. Richard Burton previously co-directed Doctor Faustus (1967), in which he also co-starred with Dame Elizabeth Taylor. As such, this was the second movie based on the Faust legend that the pair made together.
The names of the two motor-launches were "Pepesy" and "Papa's Joy".
The name of the medical book that the Doctor (Sir Peter Ustinov) was seen reading was "Studies in Anal Retention".
Though he played the title central character of Hammersmith, Richard Burton took second billing to Dame Elizabeth Taylor.
The wording on the sign in Hammersmith's (Richard Burton's) cell read: "Busy Hands are Happy Hands".
Publicity for this movie described Producer J. Cornelius Crean as "a self-made millionaire who can't be stereotyped."
The name of the roadside diner where Jimmie Jean Jackson (Dame Elizabeth Taylor) worked was "You Wanta Eat".
This movie was selected to screen in competition at the 22nd Berlin International Film Festival in 1972, where it was nominated for three awards including the Golden Bear for Best Film. The movie won two Bears there, a Silver Bear for Best Actress for Dame Elizabeth Taylor, and a Silver Bear for an Outstanding Artistic Contribution for actor and Director Sir Peter Ustinov.
Dame Elizabeth Taylor wore an ash-blonde wig throughout this movie.
Though set in the U.S., this movie was filmed in Mexico.
Producer J. Cornelius Crean said in an interview with the St. Petersburg Times on June 20, 1972 that he ventured into the volatile movie production field with this movie as "boredom with business lead me into the movies. Believe me, there is nothing boring about motion pictures."
First movie in seven years directed by Sir Peter Ustinov.
The name of the topless girl band was "The Tits".
Producer J. Cornelius Crean once said that "I have always agreed with Willy Shakespeare that 'the play's the thing'."
According to Melvyn Bragg's biography of Richard Burton, Robert Redford was considered for the part of Billy Breedlove. Burton watched some movies in which Redford starred and came to the conclusion that Redford, then in his early thirties, hadn't become a star because he lacked a certain panache or charisma. Burton didn't want Redford for this movie, and was glad when the part instead was offered to, and accepted by, Beau Bridges. Of course, within a year of the release of this movie, Redford was a superstar, the number one box-office attraction in the U.S. (a mantle he would wear another two times in the 1970s), and would soon get Oscar nominated for The Sting (1973).
Final theatrical movie collaboration of real-life acting couple Dame Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton. The pair appeared in the television movie Divorce His - Divorce Hers (1973).
According to movie critic Roger Ebert, "the press release says (Richard) Burton and (Dame Elizabeth) Taylor agreed to a special deal" to make this movie.
This movie featured a character called "Cleopatra", played by Carl Don. Dame Elizabeth Taylor played the title character in Cleopatra (1963).
Director Sir Peter Ustinov asked Richard Burton to never blink in this movie so as to convey Hammersmith's awesome psychotic sociopathic power. Similarly, one of the inspirations from which Sir Anthony Hopkins borrowed for his interpretation of Hannibal Lecter, for The Silence of the Lambs (1991), was a friend of his in London who never blinked, which unnerved anyone around him.
Beau Bridges and the character he played, Billy Breedlove, had letter "B" alliterated names.
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This movie was first announced in 1965.
The only one of the handful of films directed by Sir Peter Ustinov where he didn't also receive a writing credit - although it is pretty obvious that he did extensive anonymous rewriting of the screenplay.
Richard Burton's diaries reveal that he was sure this film would be a huge box-office hit, something both he and Elizabeth Taylor needed in 1972. It was, however, one of their biggest financial failures.