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17 out of 23 people found the following review useful:

The Definative "Cat on a Hot Tin Roof"

10/10
Author: peacham from Pa.
27 October 1999



Forget The watered down film version from 1958. forget the ridiculous tacked on "happy" ending between Newman and a Miscast Liz Taylor...This is the ultimate film version of Williams greatest play. The screenplay is direct from William's outstanding revised 1974 text with one of the greatest ending scenes in theatre history. Tommy Lee Jones has never been better than as the alcoholic Brick Pollitt. Jessica Lange is so sexy,manipulative and tortured as Maggie that you don't know if you want to hit her or make love to her. the agony put forth in these two characters manifests itself to perfection in these perfect actors.

As wonderful as Jones and Lange are, they are still outdone by Rip Torn as Big Daddy. 'He's never turned gentleman." Maggie says of her father-in-law and thats the honest truth in Torn's magnetic,engaging and touching performance. His Act II scene with Brick is some of the best screen acting I have ever witnessed. Kim Stanley gives us a very human and warm Big Mamma, unlike Judith Anderson's cold matriarch in the 1958 version and Penny Fuller and David Dukes ooze bile as the Greedy Gooper and Mae. This is a film to be watched over and over. Finally a CAT ON A HOT TIN ROOF on screen William's could be proud of !

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14 out of 18 people found the following review useful:

If only they were still doing stuff like this.

Author: Low Man from Lafayette, IN
5 November 2001

Tennesee Williams is, without a doubt, one of the best writers of the 20th century. Cat on a Hot Tin Roof has always been my personal favorite. This particular version first came out as part of a project that premium cable (Showtime I think) was doing in its early years. If I'm not mistaken, the performance was taped live in an effort to create a live theatrical atmosphere. I bring this up because it will explain to those who care why it looks so much like a soap opera, only with good writing.

Aside from the somewhat cheesy production level, this is one of the best adaptations I have ever seen of a play to television. It couldn't be better cast. The performances are excellent. Even the DX-7ish sounding music score has a sultry feel to it that matches the setting beautifully.

My first experience with this play was, like many I suppose, the film version with Paul Newman, Elizabeth Taylor, and Burl Ives. Even in that watered down version, the play had power, so I went to rent it to check it out more thoroughly. The video store had this version of it instead. When it first played on TV, I was much too young to really appreciate the power and raw emotion of the story in its pure form. I never would have guessed the movie was so bad. Burl Ives, after all, played Big Daddy in the original production. Unfortunately, the people who made the movie were apparently either too scared or too hampered by censorship concerns and star egos to present a workable facsimile of the original. I can understand axing the ambiguously homosexual relationship that has cast Brick into his alcoholic nose dive, I suppose, though the story loses almost all of its power because of it. I cannot, however, understand giving Big Mama's only sympathetic line in the whole play over to Elizabeth Taylor, who now strikes me as badly miscast in the role.

I should point out, however, that even this version is not exactly what Williams wrote. In this case, though, that is to its benefit. Williams' original version did not have Big Daddy in the final scenes. The original director, Elia Kazan, wanted him back, so Williams, since he liked the character anyway, obliged him. The scene as rewritten, however, never struck me as quite as good as Williams' original effort. This version has taken the best of both of those versions, a few nicely written lines that were added to the movie version and melded them into a superb synthesis whose presentation is most assuredly greater than the sum of its parts. I hate hearing this play end any way other than Maggie telling Brick she loves him, and Brick replying, "Wouldn't it be funny if that was true?"

All in all, this was a magnificent effort. I only regret that premium cable did not keep up the good work.

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12 out of 19 people found the following review useful:

A truly fine version of the Williams original

10/10
Author: jhb-4 from New Orleans, Louisiana USA
24 February 2005

Hello from Joe Bonelli-- a native Mississippian and actor who performs as Tennessee Williams in a one-man show (not an "impersonator" gig). The one-star review of this "Cat on a Hot Tin Roof" by a know-nothing here states that maybe that person doesn't understand or appreciate "over the top southern drama." You got it!! This version of the original Williams script, butchered by Hollywood in 1958-- good film, but NOT "Cat"-- is dead on. Tommy Lee Jones, a Texas native, is, in this version, the best Brick I've ever seen. This part is probably the most difficult male role in the Williams' canon and Tommy Lee pulls it off admirably. I like Jessical Lange very much but do not consider her quite right for this, for Blanche in "Streetcar" (which she also plays in a version that doesn't really work well) or Amanda in "Glass Menagerie" (which she is to play on Broadway in early 2005). Rip Torn and the late, lamented Kim Stanley are excellent in their roles and Williams-- who admired both immensely-- would, I believe, have approved. Now don't get me wrong-- there are some fine aspects to the Hollywood film and good performances all around (especially from the brilliant Burl Ives, recreating his Broadway original, and Madeline Sherwood as Sister Woman (Mae)-- ditto!) But the constraints of the Hollywood Production Code really hurt what could have been a true classic. By the way, Williams appreciated the performances of both Elizabeth Taylor and Paul Newman in the Hollywood bowdlerized version-- as do I. It would have been wonderful to see how these great stars/actors would have handled the original script. I suggest that the writer who doesn't "understand or appreciate over-the-top southern drama" stick to prettily-cast sanitized Hollywood adaptations of great plays and true-to-the-original films of them-- and pass on handing out uninformed opinions about the real thing. You don't have to like a play or a performance-- but you DO need to know something about it before you dismiss fine writing and acting.

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3 out of 3 people found the following review useful:

if only it had been a real movie...

9/10
Author: MisterWhiplash from United States
12 July 2008

While I haven't seen very much of the highly-touted 1958 film version of Tennessee Williams's play Cat on a Hot Tin Roof with Paul Newman and Elizabeth Taylor (arguably the most attractive stars of their respective times), the film itself from what I've read was censored and given a tacked on ending to appease the Hayes Code and Catholic League of Decency. I'd imagine the actors were cast well for the parts, but it would likely be best to have the full power and conviction and very human tragedy of Brick to be most effective. Since then the play has been produced countless times in all parts of the country (not least of which on Broadway, where as recent as the past few years an all-black cast was put together for a revival), and as with this 1985 live-taped show, some of it was broadcast as it was for the masses.

I saw the a video of this production, featuring Tommy Lee Jones, Jessica Lange, and Rip Torn, in a Modern Drama class at my old college, and it definitely left an impact after already going over the play in heavy lit-analysis mode. It is, of course, hampered by being a filmed taping of a live performance, but in this limitation it's great to just watch the actors fully embody these characters on their own terms. And, more often than not, it's dynamite; it might even be some of the best acting Torn has ever done, on stage or in film, as the tough "Big Daddy" character who gets a big powerhouse act to spar off of Jones in his conflicted, repressed homosexual character grieving his friend's suicide. Lange, by the way, is excellent in her sultry but depressed wife who is ignored/belittled by Brick.

So, as I can't really give a base of comparison between original film version and this, I can simply say that, for what it's worth, it gives fans of Williams and the play itself their money's worth (or TV-viewing time worth, if it happens to ever play again on a channel). Find it on video if you can!

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6 out of 9 people found the following review useful:

Greatest Performance In American Theater

Author: ekulp
5 July 2000

When I watched Maggie/Jessica Lange do that long all-in-one-breath monologue telling Brick how everybody loved him, I said to myself This has got to be the high point in American Theater. It was one great sustained crescendo. It is most incredible that it goes unnoticed.

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5 out of 9 people found the following review useful:

GREAT DRAMA

Author: jonpd from San Diego, CA
22 November 2002

Wonderfully acted stage production of Williams' classic play. This first aired on Showtime in 1984 or 1985 and I can still recall being a small boy absolutely loving this. Lange is so fiery (and even humorous) in her role as Maggie and Jones is so full of emotional and physical pain as Brick. The other performances are just as solid. Beautiful set designs and nice southern music add on to the positive elements of this great drama.

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2 out of 6 people found the following review useful:

Moments of greatness

Author: scrnwrtrgeneral from Virginia
20 February 2003

I have an extraordinary attachment to this play. Aside from being my all-time favorite, which I have read at least fifty times, I was also cast as Big Daddy for an attempted high school production, which, fittingly enough for the history of the play, I suppose, was cancelled and replaced with something "more appropriate" under pressure from the school's administration. I saw the original Newman-Taylor version after reading it the first few times, but had heard a lot of raving that the 1958 film was horrible and that this was worlds better. I found a laser-disc copy and watched it this afternoon. I definitely have more complaints with this performance than I expected. I personally wish that the Rip Torn of 'The Insider' and 'Wonder Boys' had been present in the role of Big Daddy, rather than the version I saw, who despite playing the role with an enormous passion, produced a performance which saw his accent slide all over the place, from a few moments of European immigrant on one misguided extreme to Chris Kattan's incomprehensible sketches on SNL at another, the original lines by Tennessee Williams often escape him, and overall, it results in a very streaky and inconsistent characterization. Perhaps this is a result of being filmed live, or perhaps it's a Rip Torn without an additional fifteen years of experience. Jessica Lange also turned in an impassioned role, but she also seemed rather inconsistent. I actually longed for a little of Liz Taylor's cattiness in the first act, but the play as a whole I preferred Lange. My only quibble with Tommy Lee Jones was that he did not seem to make a decision whether Brick was indeed homosexual or not, which I think is important, because the issue of homosexuality, although the most controversial aspect, is not so crucial to the play as the issues of mendacity dissolving his friendship with Skipper. The two are interrelated, but while the belief that Skipper was homosexual would cause him to question his own sexuality, there were times when Jones seemed to actually believe the allegations, moreso than I would have expected from the character. Gooper, Mae, and Big Mama all were the finest I've seen those roles played. The other complaint was with some of the production values. I was glad that it was done realistically rather than expressionistically as Kazan first directed it on Broadway, but the liquor cabinet and bed are supposed to both have an awesome presence on the room, and neither does in this film, nor does the bedroom have the quality of "pale light on weathered wood" Williams specified in the production notes. Also, Big Daddy's entrance in a baseball cap seemed entirely out of place. Worst, however, was the soft-focus quality of the camera. There are some questionable directorial decisions, things I think could have been staged better, but the essence of the play shines through, and most importantly, the third act is nearly flawless. The passionate conflicts that Williams weaves together are communicated, and the play is so good that nearly any group, probably even my little high school troupe, could have moved an audience, even if not displaying master craft.

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4 out of 11 people found the following review useful:

Kim Stanley is beyond criticism

Author: cutebutstoopid from Canada
2 December 2004

I'm sorry, and I apologise to the previous poster, but criticising Kim Stanley is unacceptable.

Where do I start?

The first time I saw this, TWENTY YEARS AGO, back when I was, like, GOING ON TWENTY, Kim Stanley's performance in that horrible scene when she finds out that Big Daddy's cancer is terminal brought tears to my eyes. And then she won an Emmy. Against actors that people had actually heard of.

I only bring this up because that great documentary that's making the rounds ("The Golden Age of Broadway") quotes about half a dozen or more highly respected stage veterans who all sing Kim Stanley's praises.

Kim Stanley acted without affect: That could occasionally appear slight. What it was was that she was so busy giving it up that she forgot to show you where and how she was acting.

And, again, show me a better Big Momma, like, ever...

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8 out of 19 people found the following review useful:

Unsatisfactory all round - apart from Kim Stanley

5/10
Author: graham clarke (grahamclarke@earthling.net)
23 November 2006

Just as Stanley Kowalski and Blache du Bois will be forever associated with Marlon Brando and Vivien Leigh, so too will Brick and Maggie be with Paul Newman and Elizabeth Taylor. These are performances that define the meaning of definitive which of course poses an insurmountable problem for anyone attempting to recreate those roles. One has to approach a revival of "Streetcar" or "Cat" with the foreknowledge that the principals will more than likely fall short. It's more a question of just how short.

Jessica Lange falls shorter than one might expect although not for want of trying. That in fact is the major problem with her performance. One is constantly aware of just how hard she's trying. There's far too little cat in her "Maggie the Cat". In a bit of misdirection she takes to using her hands to make cat like movements. The result is ungainly and fails to compensate.

As Brick, Tommy Lee Jones' limitations have never been more evident. It's impossible to believe that he has any real sexual ambivalence which is the very heart of the character. His speeches concerning his buddy Skipper have no emotional truth whatsoever. It is a heartless performance. I saw Brendan Fraser battle with the part on the stage. He failed to make it work, but fared far better than Jones.

Burl Ives' marvelous portrayal of Big Daddy is too a definitive one. From Rip Torn, an actor with a wealth of experience one certainly could have expected a lot more. For some reason he is presented as scruffy and unkempt. This is hardly the imposing figure that Williams intended, one that commands respect and flaunts his power as head of the family. But worse still was his way over the top acting. Like Jones, he too lacked any sense of inner truth.

Before touching on the one redeeming feature of this production a word must be mentioned about the Southern accents used. I don't profess to have a deep knowledge as to the accuracy of the ones on display here. But I do know that from the first line to the last one is constantly aware of these accents. They seem to be greatly exaggerated and rather than lend a certain Southern charm they soon begin to grate on the nerves. They simply do not come off as natural and hamper what is already a very problematic production.

And finally, Kim Stanley. While Lange, Jones and Torn never stop acting for a minute, Kim Stanley simply is Big Mama. And that, of course, is what separates the men from the boys. Judith Anderson was superb in the screen version and yet Stanley manages to recreate the character as her own. While the other actors present caricatures, she becomes a real person before our eyes. There is precious little on film of Kim Stanley's performances which is, in the final analysis, the only worthwhile reason for seeking out this version.

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7 out of 20 people found the following review useful:

A Nest of Snakes, With a Fake Accent of The Cast

6/10
Author: Claudio Carvalho from Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
25 February 2004

In a patriarchal house, Big Daddy (Rip Torn) is not aware he has a terminal cancer. His lawyer son Gooper (David Dukes) and his daughters-in-law Mae (Penny Fuller) e Meggy (Jessica Lange) are disputing who will administrate his lands after his closer death. His favorite and alcoholic son Brick (Tommy Lee Jones) has no other interest in life but get drunk and switch-off the world. This theatrical and talky story passes in one unique ambient and is based in dialogs. The family is a nest of snakes, with lies, greed and total lack of respect for each other. The running time is 140 min. and bores the viewer, specially because of the fake accent of the cast. I am Brazilian, and for me, this forced Mississipi accent (specially the melodramatic one of Jessica Lange) is ridiculous and tedious, but I do not know the effect in those who are native in English. My vote is six.

Title (Brazil): 'Gata em Teto de Zinco Quente' ('Cat on a Hot Zinc Roof')

Obs: I have just received the following feedback from an IMDb User, regarding the accent of the cast: "I am a Mississippi native and can assure you that you are totally incorrect in this assertion. The performers are right on."

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