Yet another shrill melodrama from the bleakest period of Elizabeth Taylor’s screen career—the wasteland between her triumphant performance in Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? (1966) and her ascension to grande dame status in the ’80s—X, Y & Zee features Taylor and Michael Caine as hateful spouses battling over issues including the husband’s myriad dalliances. In other words, it’s nearly 110 minutes of Taylor screaming, threatening, and whining. Set in London, the movie tracks the relationship between unfaithful architect Robert Blakely (Caine) and his disturbed wife, Zee (Taylor). They fight virtually from sun-up to sundown, with Zee constantly promising to kill herself and/or Robert; meanwhile, Robert alternates between joining the sparring matches and numbing himself with booze. At a lavish party one night, Robert meets Stella (Susannah York), an elegant and seemingly untroubled young woman, with whom he begins an affair. However, as Robert’s feelings for Stella blossom into love, a threatened Zee lashes out by stalking the lovers, tossing Robert’s possessions into the street, and, finally, attempting suicide.
Then, while recovering in the hospital, Zee requests that Stella visit her, and Stella, quite stupidly, accepts the offer. Zee starts playing mind games with her husband’s mistress, who inexplicably reveals to Zee her deepest personal secret. And so it goes—to quote a line Stella delivers to Robert at one point, “It’s all very brittle and boring and trite.” She’s talking about Zee’s behavior, but she could just as easily be talking about X, Y & Zee itself. Caine is fine here, since he does icy nastiness better than just about anyone, though York is merely decorative, while Taylor is an outright embarrassment. She overacts ridiculously; she’s slathered with whorish eye makeup; she wears flamboyant costumes like muumuus and ponchos, presumably to mask her expanding waistline; and she sports silly fashion accoutrements like, at one point, a gold headband that looks like a leftover from her days playing Cleopatra. (Available through Columbia Screen Classics via WarnerArchive.com)
X, Y & Zee: LAME