Richard Burton has to deal with four women in this movie: a teenage girl who has set her sights on him, a spinster who is watching him like a hawk to make sure that he doesn’t do anything nefarious with the teenager, a widowed hotel owner whose husband he used to be friends with, and a middle aged panhandler who goes town to town offering to do sketches for tourists. Of all those characters I only want to talk about the widow. Specifically I want to talk about the widow’s full time man-servants who never wear shirts and always play the maracas, because… WTF.
The widow’s backstory is that she was 28 years younger than her husband, and he became impotent at some point but she still “had her desires” so she took up “night swimming” in the ocean with these two calypso-panted Mexican hunks. She swears that her older husband was fine with this… although she does grant that he began to take up night fishing at around this time, which makes me a little skeptical. Apparently she used to flirt with Burton when her husband was alive but he didn’t want to do anything out of respect for him, but now that Burton is back and the husband is in the ground all bets are off.
My curiosity about this whole set up is about how much agency these hunks have. At one point Burton insults the widow, so she summons her man-servants and they frolic on the beach. She kisses one while the other stands behind her playing the maracas, then she switches her focus and the other one grabs the maracas. They seem to be completely fine with being either the musician or the maker-outer. They don’t seem to object when a defrocked drunk priest wanders into their paradise and threatens to topple the applecart. The also nonchalantly fight a bus driver while rotating the maracas; nothing seems to bother them as long as it can be alternated with maracas-ing.
There’s a lot in this movie to talk about: Richard Burton’s acting style, which involves bellowing every line. The scene where a belligerent and drunk Burton is tied down to a hammock is notable. The specific way that Tennessee Williams writes dialogue could be tackled (and has been tackled many times.) But when it comes down to it, the main thing that I took away from this movie was those pool boys, and wondering when they are gonna get their own spin-off. Probably never, because this movie is nearly twice as old as I am, but a boy can hope.