”Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?” Liz Taylor
A dissection of the world’s most dysfunctional marriage, Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? is deadly serious in its topic. It’s also eye-poppingly camp in its delivery. As George and Martha, Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor engage in a drawn-out, alcohol-fueled battle of wits and verbal abuse, all in front of a younger couple they’ve invited over for a nightcap.
In short, it’s world’s most uncomfortable after-hours party ever.
But is it intentional or unintentional camp? Different readings, different actors, and you get something that’s as lacerating as Taylor’s Martha, but perhaps not as histrionic. The dark humor is certainly ingrained in the text, but it’s Taylor’s and Burton’s escalating performances that edge it into camp, whether or not that was their destination.
Given the sheer number of cocktails consumed during the course of the film, it’s fair to ponder exactly how any human could emerge from such an evening without alcohol poisoning and a failed liver. But that helps make this one of the most quotable films on the list, particularly if you have a friend as well-versed as you who can emulate the back-and-forth taunts. But Taylor gets the bulk of the camp lines: ”Look, sweetheart, I can drink you under any goddamn table you want, so don’t worry about me.” And, after George smashes a bottle in anger: ”I hope that was an empty bottle, George! You can’t afford to waste good liquor, not on your salary!”
It’s both horrific and captivating. It’s rubbernecking camp.