Had An Unforgettable Summer? It Can't Compare To Cathy's!
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 witnessed in regards to her son and Cathy's cousin, Sebastian and his untimely & somewhat mysterious "death" involving Sebastian's sexual secrets...
This all happened in front of Cathy's young & virginal eyes, "Suddenly, Last Summer". Last summer, Cathy and Sebastian travelled to Europe on an extravagant, decadent & obviously quite hedonistic vacation. Mrs. Venable was already quite traumatized by a baby sea turtle massacre last summer on the Galapogos Islands and Kathy was raped that very summer but what happened to cousin Sebastian in Europe was something that completely broke Kathy's fragile mind.
Auntie Venable gets the help of Dr. Cukrowicz, played by Montgomery Clift to see if he can help poor Cathy out with a prescibed lobotomy and mainly to save the selfish & overbearing Mrs. Venable from having people know about her son's secrets that got him killed.
From the opening scene, the viewer is riveted to the screen and left wondering... wondering... WHAT really happened so suddenly, last summer? The film builds and builds into the last 20 minutes of this film where Taylor gives a tremendous soliliquy and overview of just what DID happen to poor Sebastian. The split-screen effect that is used in this ending scene is fabulous. You never see Sebastian so what you are conjuring up in your mind is MUCH MORE horrific than they could have filmed back then. Wonderful cast with excellent performances from all but Clift who was quite medicated during the grueling shoot due to an accident before filming. If you are a Tennessee Williams, Elizabeth Taylor or Katharine Hepburn fan this is a MUST SEE!
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Sheila Chilcote-Collins (Sheila)
I enjoy writing my own reviews, listmanias, 'So You'd Like To's' on Amazon and love reading other people's thoughts. I own in excess of 1000 movies, 800+ albums, & 500+ books. … 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 ...