Doctor Faustus (1967 film)

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Doctor Faustus
Doctor Faustas movie poster.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed by Richard Burton
Nevill Coghill
Produced by Richard Burton
Richard McWhorter
Written by Nevill Coghill
Starring Richard Burton
Elizabeth Taylor
Andreas Teuber
Music by Mario Nascimbene
Cinematography Gábor Pogány
Edited by John Shirley
Distributed by Columbia Pictures Corporation
Release dates
  • 10 October 1967 (1967-10-10) (United Kingdom)
  • 6 February 1968 (1968-02-06) (United States)
Running time
92 minutes[1]
Country United Kingdom
Language English

Doctor Faustus is a 1967 film adaptation of Christopher Marlowe's The Tragical History of Doctor Faustus, written in 1588. The first theatrical film version of a Marlowe play, it starred and was directed by Richard Burton, (Nevill Coghill, Burton's mentor,[2] is also given credit for directing), who played the title character Faustus. Elizabeth Taylor made a silent cameo appearance as Helen of Troy, an appearance at which critics of the day invariably sneered.

The film is a permanent record of a stage production that Burton starred in and staged with Coghill at the Oxford University Dramatic Society in 1966. Burton wouldn't appear onstage again until he took over the role of Martin Dysart in Equus on Broadway ten years later.


University of Wittenberg scholar Faustus earns his doctorate, but his insatiable craving for knowledge and power leads Faustus to try his hand at necromancy in an attempt to conjure Mephistopheles out of hell. Faustus bargains his soul to Lucifer in exchange for 24 living years where Mephistopheles is his slave. Signing the pact in his own blood, Mephistopheles proceeds to reveal to Faustus the works and doings of the Devil.



Reviews of the staged version in the British press were "less than enthusiastic", with critics commenting "a sad example of university drama at its worst", with an uninspired Burton "walking through the part". Taylor was "undeniably decorative, but there was nothing much to say about her acting ability".[3] The movie received a terribly negative review in The New York Times, Renata Adler criticizing the adaptation of the text ("the play has been quite badly cut"), Burton's performance ("he seems happiest shouting in Latin, or in Ms. Taylor's ear"), the score ("some horrible electronic Wagnerian theme music"), and Taylor's role ("in this last role [Alexander's paramour], she is, for some reason, frosted all over with silver--like a pastry, or a devaluated refugee from Goldfinger"), reserving praise only for Teuber's performance ("one fine, very pious performance").[4]


  1. ^ "DOCTOR FAUSTUS (X)". British Board of Film Classification. 1967-07-26. Retrieved 2012-11-19. 
  2. ^ Bevington, David (2010). "The Performance History". In Sara Munson Deats. Doctor Faustus: A Critical Guide. A&C Black. pp. 41–71. ISBN 9781847061386. 
  3. ^ Lewis, Anthony (16 February 1966). "Dr. Faustus Gets Cool a Welcome: British Reviewers Criticize the Burtons and the Play". The New York Times. p. 49. 
  4. ^ Adler, Renata (7 February 1968). "Screen: Faustus Sells His Soul Again: Burtons and Oxford Do the Devil's Work; Adaptation of Marlowe Play at 2 Theaters". The New York Times. p. 38. 

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