Hammersmith Is Out

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Hammersmith Is Out
Promotional artwork (soundtrack album)
Directed by Peter Ustinov
Produced by Alex Lucas
Written by Stanford Whitmore
Starring Elizabeth Taylor
Richard Burton
Peter Ustinov
Beau Bridges
George Raft
Music by Dominic Frontiere
Cinematography Richard H. Kline
Edited by David E. Blewitt
J. Cornelius Crean Films Inc.
Distributed by Cinerama Releasing
Release date
  • May 12, 1972 (1972-05-12) (U.S.)
Running time
108 minutes
Country United States
Language English

Hammersmith Is Out is a 1972 comedy film based on the legend of Faust. It is directed by Peter Ustinov, who starred in the film alongside Elizabeth Taylor, Richard Burton, Beau Bridges, Leon Ames, and George Raft.


Billy Breedlove (Beau Bridges) is an orderly at a Texas psychiatric hospital. He simultaneously falls under the spell of two people: a blonde waitress at a local diner named Jimmie Jean Jackson (Elizabeth Taylor) and an allegedly sociopathic hospital patient named Hammersmith (Richard Burton), who is restrained in a straitjacket within a locked cell.

Hammersmith promises Billy a new life with fame and fortune if he is released from his incarceration. Billy agrees to free Hammersmith, provided that Jimmie Jean can accompany their escape. The three make their way into adventures where Hammersmith murders people and steals property as the means for elevating Billy’s social and financial status. Billy becomes the owner of a topless bar, the owner of a pharmaceutical company, an oil tycoon, the financier of political campaigns and a roving ambassador-at-large for the United States.

Over time, Billy comes to loathe Jimmie Jean. However, Hammersmith takes an interest in her and grants her wish that she should become a mother. Hammersmith arranges for Billy to become disabled in a water skiing accident, and then convinces him to commit suicide. The head of the psychiatric hospital (Peter Ustinov) locates Hammersmith and has him returned to his incarceration – where he begins to promise fame and fortune to another orderly.[1]



Hammersmith Is Out was the first film financed by John Crean, the founder of Fleetwood Enterprises, Inc. a producer of recreational vehicles, travel trailers (including fold-down tent trailers) and manufactured housing. Crean told an interviewer that he ventured into the motion picture industry in search of excitement. "Boredom with business led me into movies,” he said. “Believe me, there’s nothing boring about motion pictures."[2]

Although the film takes place in the United States, Hammersmith Is Out was shot in Mexico.[3] Director Peter Ustinov had previously worked with Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor as their co-star in the 1967 drama The Comedians.[4] In directing Burton, Ustinov instructed the actor to convey Hammersmith's sociopathic power by never blinking.[5]


Hammersmith Is Out opened to positive reviews. Roger Ebert, writing in the Chicago Sun-Times, called it "one of the year's best comedies” and “one of the year's best satires."[6] Vincent Canby, reviewing the film for The New York Times, stated the film "is both too elaborate and not quite witty enough to be especially convincing as contemporary morality comedy. However, just when the patience is at the point of exhaustion, when one might leave the theater with a clear conscience, the film comes to fitful life."[3]

However, Hammersmith Is Out was not commercially successful. The film was released on VHS video in the 1980, but to date it has not been released on DVD.[5]


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