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Had An Unforgettable Summer? It Can't Compare To Cathy's!
Sheila Chilcote-Collins | Collinswood, Van Wert, OH USA | 05/14/2004
(5 out of 5 stars)
"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!
The strength of the performances make this film sizzle
Linda Linguvic | New York City | 05/07/2002
(5 out of 5 stars)
"This 1959 film starred both Elizabeth Taylor and Katherine Hepburn. Each is a fine actress in her own right. But put them together, and the screen just sizzles. Each one has long monologues lasting for more than 15 minutes, but, because of their talents, I was riveted to my seat the entire time. Adapted from a play by Tennessee Williams who was joined by Gore Vidal in writing the screenplay, it's a strikingly weird story set in 1937 New Orleans and deals with the sensitive subjects of insanity, lobotomy and cannibalism. When we consider that the film was released during a time of high censorship, we have to applaud the writing, which had to conform to the guidelines of the time. Perhaps for this reason though, some of the story is not quite crystal clear. But this doesn't matter, nor does it matter that the Southern accents seem either non-authentic or missing altogether. That's because of the strength of the performances. And not every detail has to always be tied up in a neat package. If you're looking for a lightweight, comfortable film, you won't find it here. Instead you'll find a disturbing controversial theme and some of the best on-screen performances by you'll ever see."
SOUTHERN GOTHIC HORROR....
Mark Norvell | HOUSTON | 11/16/2002
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Watered down film version of Tennesee Williams' stage play that contains one of the most horrific storylines brought to the screen at the time (1959). Katharine Hepburn is memorable as the very weird Mrs. Violet Venable, a wealthy New Orleanian matron who keeps a monstrous jungle of carnivorous plants on her patio grounds. She attempts to procure the services of a new young neuro-surgeon (Montgomery Clift) with a radically new method of lobotomy to lobotomize her supposedly mad niece Catherine (a stunning Elizabeth Taylor) to shut-up her ramblings about the death of Violets' son, Sebastian, who died a grotesque death "suddenly last summer". Of course, Catherine isn't mad but still in shock since she witnessed Sebastians' death. While showing her "garden" to the doctor, Mrs.Venable relates a morbid story of she and Sebastian witnessing baby turtles being devoured by sea birds as they scrambled for their lives to the ocean. This tale is allegorical to the way Sebastian died but Mrs.Venable is in extreme denial about the nature of his death and the twos' true relationship. The doctor begins interviewing Catherine and discovers the truth through the use of truth serum. Sebastian was a sexual predator who used his mother while they vacationed to attract young men and when Violet was no longer young or pretty enough he turned to Catherine. This leads to the horrible revelations about his death that Violet Venable is determined to stop Catherine from revealing---even if it means a lobotomy. This is amazing subject matter for the time and daringly brought to the screen. The film is somewhat stagily done but fascinating to watch thanks to the awesome performances of Hepburn and Taylor. Essential viewing for truly off-beat psycho-drama and what could be gotten away with in 1959 when handled properly. Give this one a good watching."
Raw power, nightmarish events, an untimely death--and amazin
Matthew G. Sherwin | last seen screaming at Amazon customer service | 11/04/2007
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Suddenly, Last Summer is an excellent film adaptation of Tennessee Williams' play of the same name. The cast couldn't be better: Katherine Hepburn, Montgomery Clift and Elizabeth Taylor star in this horrifying drama. Although two hours long, you'll never stir once in your seat. The excellent dialogue holds your attention and the convincing acting is nothing short of stellar.
When the film begins, a wealthy middle aged widow named Violet Venable (Katherine Hepburn) still suffers the pain from the loss of her son Sebastian the previous summer. Although Violet wants to remember her son as a "chaste" man, her niece Cathy Holly (Elizabeth Taylor) unconsciously remembers the actual events that led to Sebastian's tragic and untimely death. Violet can't stand the fact that Cathy remembers just a bit too much about Sebastian, so she tries to bribe a doctor (Montgomery Clift) to lobotomize Catherine so that her son's memory will never be defiled.
It's a race against time as Dr. Cukrowicz (Montgomery Clift) becomes intrigued by Catherine's story and unusual memory loss. The doctor is under intense pressure to lobotomize Cathy from both Violet Venable and his boss at the asylum where Catherine is being kept. However, Dr. Cukrowicz wants to see if Catherine can be made to tell the truth--and avoid a lobotomy at the last minute.
The plot moves along very well and certain images could scare sensitive people. Sebastian's garden is an eerie place that reflects superlative set design; and the split screen at the end when Cathy finally does remember exactly how Sebastian died will stay in your head for quite a while after you view this film.
The DVD contains few real extras; we do get the theatrical trailer for the film and you can select scenes to view and setup the audio as you wish from several options.
Suddenly, Last Summer is one of those rare films that are truly memorable well after you've seen them. Although you can't be squeamish in order to handle the ending of this film, I believe this is one of the best films ever made. When you watch this film you will be riveted by the action and plot development just as I was.
I highly recommend this film for film buffs and for people who want to see Katherine Hepburn perform a tour de force as a ghastly villain. People who enjoy films with Elizabeth Taylor and Montgomery Clift will also appreciate this movie. "
"last summer Cathy knew she was being used for something evi
M. J Leonard | Silver Lake, Los Angeles, CA United States | 10/24/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Groundbreaking and equally fascinating when it was released in 1959, this lurid adaptation of Tennessee William's play is most notable for the incredible performances of Elizabeth Taylor and Katharine Hepburn who play a seemingly insane, young New Orleans debutante and the wealthy aunt who is intent to lobotomize her.
Suddenly Last Summer is a somber, intelligent and fascinating film, which for the time, deals with some terribly controversial issues. There's some nasty work at foot as the terrible secrets of homosexuality, insanity, murder and cannibalism are gradually revealed.
Wealthy and ferocious New Orleans matron, Mrs. Violet Venable (Katharine Hepburn), is determined to have her niece, Catherine Holly (Elizabeth Taylor), drastically lobotomized. Catherine tells about a horrifying past incident during a vacation trip with her cousin Sebastian that has made her breakdown and become totally mad.
Sebastian was Mrs. Venable's son and a failed poet. The wealthy dowager urges neurosurgeon Dr. John Cukrowicz (Montgomery Clift) to act as a psychiatrist in the case. Dr. Cukrowicz is called in to seek the truth, treat and interview Catherine, and determine whether drastic measures are necessary. Mrs. Venable suggests a lobotomy to excise the memory of the incident and prevent the mad ravings from occurring, but Cukrowicz is strangely drawn to the tortured and misunderstood girl.
As the young doctor tries to get to the bottom of what happened to Catherine, Violet's steely demeanor and devotion to Sebastian present a formidable barrier. Catherine herself doesn't offer much help, her recollections jumbled by medication and the trauma of Sebastian's demise. Under pressure to seal the deal and cut into Catherine's brain, Cukrowicz's principles - and attraction to the young woman - prevent him from proceeding until he uncovers what actually happened to Sebastian.
The realization that Sebastian and Violet are not all that they seem is at the heart of the film, and provides the story's darkest secret. Catherine and Violet bookend Dr Cukrowicz and tear at him with their considerable powers. Violet has charisma and money to burn, while Catherine has her passion, beauty, and perfect breasts. In a memorable confrontation, Catherine reminds Violet that she's too old to "attract", a skill highly regarded by Sebastian, who apparently loved to have a beautiful woman nearby to lure sexy guys for his own use.
The film's most memorable scene, and the one in which I must confess was totally mesmerized, is when Catherine, under the influence of some kind of hypnotic truth serum describes the bizarre murder of the predatory Sebastian. While traveling with him in Spain during their vacation the previous summer, he used her as a means to attract and lure boys. The young boys turned on Sebastian and he was murdered. She describes how she watched his body being ravaged and cannibalized by angry young boys at the Spanish coastal resort:
Suddenly, Last Summer unrolls creakily like a one-act play - there are only half a dozen major scenes in the film, some running for well over fifteen minutes, and featuring great actors - Clift, Hepburn and Taylor - in spectacular Williams duologues.
Bizarre highlights include Violet descending in a one-person elevator, Catherine stumbling across an asylum catwalk grabbed at by horny, lobotomized male inmates, and a surreal Mediterranean cannibalism scene that's sensational while also being quite disturbing. Mike Leonard October 05. "