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Suddenly, Last Summer (1959)

  • Thriller Drama Mystery
  • The only son of wealthy widow Violet Venable dies while on vacation with his cousin Catherine. What the girl saw was so horrible that she went insane; now Mrs. Venable wants Catherine lobotomized to cover up the truth.

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    English
  • $3,000,000
  • Description

    A surgeon is assigned the case of a young woman whose aunt wants her lobotomized to cover up a family secret.

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    Reviews

    Talk is never cheap when sourced from Tennessee Williams. Millionairess, Violet Venable is obsessed with her now dead son, Sebastian. Sebastian met his untimely end whilst on vacation with his cousin Catharine, an end that has sent Catharine almost to the edge of insanity. Violet, very concerned about Catharine and her hurtful ramblings, enlists brain surgeon Dr. Cukrowicz to see if he will perform a lobotomy on the poor girl, but as Cukrowicz digs deeper, motives and facts come crashing together to reveal something far more worrying. As one expects from a Tennessee Williams adaptation, this picture is very talky, perhaps borderline annoyingly so? Yet it has to be said that for those willing to invest the time with it, the pay off is well worth the wait. Suddenly Last Summer is an odd mix of campy melodrama and Gothic horror leanings, a mix that personally doesn't quite hit all the intended spots. It could have been so different, though, for if Gore Vidal and Joseph Mankiewicz had been given free rein back in this day of code restrictions, well the picture would surely have been close to masterpiece status. This adaptation only gives us little snippets on which to feed, we are aware of the homosexuality of the departed Sebastian, and other hints that come our way include incest, sadism and dubious class issues, but ultimately such strong material is never fully formed. Elizabeth Taylor owns the picture as Catharine, sultry with heaving bosom, she does an excellent line in borderline nut case, all woe is me martyrdom and her final scenes are what pays the viewer off for their patience. Katharine Hepburn plays Violet and manages to chew the scenery and spit it out, it's an elegant performance but you really want more than we actually get! Montgomery Clift is the good doctor, not one of his better performances because he isn't asked to expand the character, just say his lines right, look baleful from time to time and play off Taylor's lead, job done really. It's a recommended film to a degree, certainly one that simmers with an almost oppressive feel, but if the film is one to revisit often? Well that's up for debate and dependent on the viewer's inclination towards dialogue driven films. 7/10

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