The British-born Elizabeth Taylor was the quintessential Hollywood screen goddess. The Welsh-born Richard Burton was one of the most compelling British actors of his generation. Together, they were a perfect storm of talent, glamour, and offscreen scandal, which made even their lesser films essential viewing for those fascinated by cinema's royal couple. This four-film set captures the prolific couple at the height of their 1960s heyday. The essential entry is Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf
(1966), which earned Taylor an Academy Award, and launched the film directing career of Mike Nichols. This adaptation of Edward Albee's searing play was ahead of its time for its use of profanity, as chronicled in bonus featurettes on this two-disc Special Edition. Taylor and Burton star as the braying Martha, a college president's daughter, and her husband George, an associate history professor. An ambitious teacher (George Segal) and his mousy wife (a heartbreaking Sandy Dennis) arrive for an unforgettable night of such emasculating sport as "Humiliate the Host," "Get the Guests," and "Hump the Hostess." The V.I.P.s
(1963) is a star-studded soap opera about a group of notables stranded at a fog-shrouded airport, each desperate to get off the ground. In addition to Orson Welles as a film director trying to stay one step ahead of the British tax man and Margaret Rutherford (who earned an Academy Award) as a financially strapped duchess, we have Taylor as the unhappy wife of magnate Burton, set to elope with a reformed (?) gigolo (Louis Jordan). The Sandpiper
(1965) is one of those vaunted enjoyable "golden turkeys" that at least has the beautiful Big Sur coast and the Oscar-winning song "The Shadow of Your Smile" as consolation for the silly illicit romance between Taylor, an unconvincing bohemian artist, and Burton, the tortured Episcopalian reverend to whose school Taylor's illegitimate son has been sent. The Comedians
(1967) is hardly a laughing matter. Graham Greene adapted his novel of upheaval in Papa Doc-run Haiti. You have to jump 40 years to Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie to find another couple with Taylor and Burton's wattage. This collection gives a time capsule glimpse at what all the fuss was about. --Donald Liebenson
Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton were the Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt of their generation, catching fire on screen and off. The jury is still out Brangelina, but Taylor and Burton made several popular films together and this collection has three films making their DVD debuts, plus a new 2-DVD special edition of "Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?" The other three titles are "The Comedians," "The V.I.P.'s," and "The Sandpiper," all three exclusive to this box set.