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Suddenly, Last Summer

Classics and Drama movie directed by Joseph L. Mankiewicz

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really puts the "gothic" into Southern Gothic...

  • Jun 10, 2007
SUDDENLY LAST SUMMER is one of the strongest Tennessee Williams film adaptations, and that is due in no small part to Gore Vidal's fiery screenplay and the first-rate main players of Taylor, Hepburn and Clift.

The story opens in 1937. Eccentric and wealthy Southern widow Mrs Violet Venable (Katharine Hepburn) enlists the services of prolific mental health surgeon Dr. Cukrowicz (Montgomery Clift). Cukrowicz specialises in performing the revolutionary frontal lobotomy procedure on those patients whose entire lives are consumed by their illnesses.

Mrs Venable introduces Cukrowicz to her troubled young niece, Catherine Holly (Elizabeth Taylor). Ever since Catherine accompanied Violet's dead son Sebastian on his last trip to Europe, Catherine has been plagued by fearful fits of insanity. In return for some important funding for his surgery, Mrs Venable wants Catherine to be the next patient for Cukrowicz.

But what exactly happened to Sebastian on that fateful final trip...and why does Mrs Venable desperately want Catherine to forget it...?

Here in SUDDENLY LAST SUMMER, a horrifying journey into sweat-stained asylums and heavily-veiled secrets, Elizabeth Taylor and Katharine Hepburn deliver tour-de-force performances. A lot of people still find Montgomery Clift somewhat lacking here, but a lot of that does come back to the character he plays, who is very much overshadowed by the two women. There is also some fine work from Mercedes McCambridge as Catherine's weak-willed mother.

Taylor was nominated for an Academy Award (in addition to Hepburn), but failed to win, partly because this was during the period when her tumultuous private life essentially got her blackballed; though she did manage to grab the Golden Globe for her performance--in direct competition with Hepburn.

SUDDENLY LAST SUMMER remains a searing and shocking movie experience. If you have never seen it, do yourself a favour and buy it today. You'll be riveted from beginning to end.

The DVD includes a bonus video montage of stills; talent profiles for the main players, and the trailer for "28 Days". (Single-sided, dual-layer disc).

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More Suddenly, Last Summer reviews
review by . February 13, 2013
Just say it, already!
Long, slow, New Orleans-in-the-thirties talkfest filled with hystrionics and over-acting. Hepburn is excellent, playing a Southern grande dame with a decidedly New England accent, Taylor is gorgeous (complete with full makeup, tight dresses, and stilettos while incarcerated) but shreiks a lot, while Clift appears catatonic and bug-eyed throughout. McCambridge minces about with a silly, shrill drawl and looks ridiculous.      The whole point of the movie is summed up in one sentence, …
review by . May 14, 2004
Tennessee Williams SOUTHERN GOTH masterpiece a la dark black and white Hollywood film style with Joseph (All About Eve, Guys & Dolls) Mankiewicz at the director's helm and screenplay adapted by Gore Vidal.    Elizabeth Taylor plays beautiful and crazy Cathy and Mercedes McCambridge (the actress who provided the voice of the demon in The Exorcist) plays her protective mother. Katherine Hepburn is Auntie Venable and wants niece Cathy to have a lobotomy to help her forget what she …
About the reviewer
Byron Kolln ()
Ranked #145
Byron has been actively involved in theatre since the age of 12. He has had a great variety of roles (both on-stage and off). In addition he has hosted the long-running "Show Business" programme … more
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This black-and-white film adaptation of Tennessee Williams's Southern gothic play is perhaps more famous for the rumored off-screen shenanigans of its stars than for its over-the-top repressed sexuality (only Williams could pull off that paradox, and pull it off he does). Supposedly, stars Katharine Hepburn and Elizabeth Taylor battled for screen time; Hepburn warred very publicly with director Joseph Mankiewicz; and a postaccident Montgomery Clift relied heavily on painkillers and support from friend Taylor during the grueling shoot. Even this, however, cannot top the events of the film itself, revolving around the unseen playboy Sebastian and his mysterious death, which has something to do with young boys, a decadent European vacation, and Taylor in a provocative wet, white bathing suit. To give away the plot would spoil the fun, but suffice it to say that what Taylor saw was so horrible it drove her nuts, and Sebastian's mother (Hepburn) wants her to have a lobotomy in order to keep it from coming out; Clift is brought in to do the procedure. It's all a hoot and a holler, but as played by the two leading ladies (both of whom nabbed Oscar nominations), it's also compelling, chilling, and utterly gothic. Taylor gives a fierce performance, as the climaxing monologue that reveals Sebastian's "secret" rests entirely on her shoulders, and Hepburn plays brilliantly against type as Sebastian's manipulating, overbearing mother. Only Clift, saddled with a dreary character in charge ...
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Genre: Classics, Drama
DVD Release Date: August 15, 2000
Runtime: 114 minutes
Studio: Sony Pictures
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