Classic Movie Review: Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? (1966)

Title: Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?
Release Date: June 21, 1966
Director: Mike Nichols
Production Company: Warner Bros.

“That’s messed up!” I cried aloud as the credits rolled on this dramatization of a middle-aged married couple tormenting one another in the way only a loved one who knows one’s weaknesses can do.  Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton, the most glamorous actors in Hollywood at the time, play against type as the schlubby duo of Martha and George.  She is the daughter of the university president and he is an unaccomplished history professor.

The movie begins at 1 am after they’ve returned from a party and Martha mentions that a young couple will be dropping by that they have to get to know on account of her father.  The young biology professor played by George Segal (known as “Nick” in the credits, but never addressed by name in the movie) arrives with his wife, called “Honey” (which may or may not be her name), who is played by Sandy Dennis.  Over the course of the night and into morning, the quartet argue, drink, reveal bits of their past and as George describes it, play “games.”  These are mind games that George and Martha torture one another with.

I won’t go into any further detail, as I find this movie worked well without knowing what was coming.  I found it excruciating to watch despite or perhaps because of the excellence in acting.  The movie’s content and dialogue must’ve been shocking in 1966, and along with Blowup was a key factor in the demise of the Production Code and the emergence of a ratings system.  This is a great movie, no doubt, but it is not an easy movie to watch, so be warned!

Rating: ****