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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A wealthy harridan, Violet Venable, attempts to bribe Dr. Cukrowicz, a young psycho-surgeon from a New Orleans mental hospital that is desperately in need of funds, into lobotomizing her niece, Catherine Holly. Violet wants the operation performed in order to prevent Catherine from defiling the memory of her son, the poet Sebastian. Catherine has been babbling obscenely about Sebastian's mysterious death that she witnessed while on holiday together in Spain the previous summer. Written by
The moral majority's campaign to censor anything on the movie screen considered too taboo had an incredible impact on Hollywood during the 1930's right through to the 1970's. Censors went through Hollywood scripts, tearing out anything considered unspeakable, no matter how important it was to the plot at hand. It became an art form of sorts, for Hollywood film makers to veil their nasty little subjects so that the censors (who weren't that bright anyway) couldn't find it, but so that a smart audience could. Suddenly Last Summer is a classic example of this art in action.
Tennessee Williams was the toast of Broadway in the 1950's, with his melodramatic plays that often tackled heavy subjects such as addiction, adultery and in the case of this story, homosexuality. Katherine Hepburn plays a classic Tennessee Williams vamp, Violet Venable, a lady of means who is mourning the loss of her son. She has sought the help of a psychiatrist, played by Montgomery Clift, as she would like to have a lobotomy performed on her niece, who is apparently off her rocker (as most of Tennessee Williams' ladies are) and is spouting nasty rumors about the dead son.
Like most of Williams' work, Suddenly Last Summer flows along with over the top dialogue, the kind that actors love to sink their teeth into. I have not seen the original stage play but I suspect that this screenplay has been severely hacked to obliterate any talk of homosexuality. Venable's son was murdered while on vacation in Europe. If you take the dialogue literally you might believe that he was murdered for his religious convictions. If you read between the lines you will see that this was clearly a gay bashing.
Hepburn and Taylor both shine in their roles, that seem almost custom made for them. It's rare that Hepburn is cast as a villain, however, her performance leaves me wondering why she hasn't done it more often. Taylor's hyper-active hyper-ventilating, Catherine Holly works well here. Her own brand of melodramatic acting seems to compliment Williams' work.
Clift was a tad cardboard in his role as the psychiatrist, however, it is still interesting to watch this performance that was filmed after his face-altering car accident. One might think that he recently underwent a lobotomy. On the other hand, he is competent, and the performances of the actresses more than compensate.
Suddenly Last Summer works as a film, but I am hesitant to recommend to everyone. This is not an action flick, by any means, but rather a character piece. Scenes are long and they require your concentration, as important statements can be found between the lines. For fans of any of these actors, this is a must see!
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