Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? Starring: Richard Burton, Elizabeth Taylor, Sandy Dennis Director: Mike Nichols The film: Widely regarded as both Richard Burton's and Elizabeth Taylor's finest screen hour (or 131 minutes to be precise), Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? was also the film that led to Jack Valenti (who died last month) setting up the movie rating system in 1968. Filled with the kind of language that had never been heard in a Hollywood film before, today it seems quite verbally tame, but still remains an energetic and alarming study of marriage and its potentially destructive effect on the human psyche. Following The Sandpiper, their disastrous joint effort of the previous year Burton and Taylor seemed set for another flop with Woolf. It had an untested first-time director - German-born Mike Nichols, - Taylor was thought to be miscast playing a woman who was written to be 20 years her senior, and the material was considered by many to be surely unpalatable to American audiences. But studio head Jack Warner and producer Ernest Lehman were both fans of the original stage production and gave it full studio backing. Against the odds, it received 13 Oscar nominations (the maximum possible at the time), including one for each of the principal actors (with wins for Taylor and Sandy Dennis), virtually defined the careers of Burton and Taylor, and launched the film-making career of Nichols, who went on to make such classics as The Graduate and Catch-22. The story takes place in the dead of night, at the home of George and Martha (Burton and Taylor). He's an associate professor of history, and at dinner on campus that night they invite a new biology teacher and his wife (George Segal and Sandy Dennis) back for drinks. Sticking quite faithfully to the stage play, George and Martha immediately set to work on each other, exchanging a drunken series of withering verbal attacks, while the initially horrified couple looks on. Gradually, though, they get into the spirit of things and become a willing and participating audience in the demolition of their hosts' apparently 'vile and crushing' marriage. With daybreak, finally, comes redemption of a kind and a surprising revelation. It's powerful stuff, but probably not the best film to watch if you're planning to tie the knot any time soon. The extras: This generous two-disc special edition from Warner includes two audio commentaries - one with director Nichols and Steven Soderbergh and another by cinematographer Haskell Wexler, which also appeared on an earlier DVD release of the film. Disc two contains an hour-long documentary on Elizabeth Taylor, two retrospective making-of featurettes totalling 30 minutes, Sandy Dennis' screen tests and a 1966 interview with Nichols. There are also trailers for three other Burton and Taylor films: The VIPs (1963), The Sandpiper (1965) and The Comedians (1967), which are only available in a new Burton and Taylor boxed set with Wolf.