The Comedians (1967)

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The Comedians (1967) Poster

A cynical Welsh hotel owner secretly romances a diplomat's wife in Haiti, under the violent reign of the despot "Papa Doc" Duvalier.

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6.5/10
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  • Richard Burton and Lillian Gish in The Comedians (1967)
  • Elizabeth Taylor in "The Comedians" 1967 MGM
  • Lillian Gish and Raymond St. Jacques in The Comedians (1967)
  • Lillian Gish in The Comedians (1967)
  • Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor in The Comedians (1967)
  • Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor in The Comedians (1967)

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6 February 2008 | robb_772
6
| A good effort that succeeds in many areas, but still falls short of greatness
After delighting audiences in director Franco Zeffirelli's 1967 hit adaptation of Shakespeare's THE TAMING OF THE SHREW, the Burtons' popularity with audiences seemed to be on the wane as their next film, Peter Glenville's THE COMEDIANS (1967) became their first full-fledged box office disappointment. There was much publicity surrounding the political thriller as it shot in Africa (masquerading as Haiti) and the fact that Taylor accepted half her usual salary and took second billing behind Burton kept gossips wagging for months (she reportedly only took the part out of fear of being replaced with Sophia Loren). But when the film opened, critics found it slow and talky and audiences simply seemed uninterested. Although the film is never quite as interesting or as suspenseful as it could have been, I dare say that THE COMEDIANS probably plays a great deal better today without the heavy expectations of the time surrounding it.

Graham Greene does a respectable job of paring down his complex novel for the screen, and director Glenville keeps the film moving at a reasonable pace in spite of its lengthy runtime of 150 minutes. The film is always interesting and occasionally gripping, although Greene and Glenville keep the audience at a relative distance which prevents the picture from striking as hard as it could have. Burton is in good form, and Alec Guinness, Paul Ford, and Lillian Gish all turn in top notch support (only Peter Ustinov feels under utilized). Unfortunately, Taylor is dreadfully miscast as a German military wife – complete with a woefully unconvincing accent – and her ill-fitting presence creates several lulls in the film as the number of scenes between her character and Burton's character are increased (in order to give the diva her proper screen time) which hampers a few long stretches of the film and slightly undermines what could have been a first-rate effort.

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