The top-notch cast of Montgomery Clift, Elizabeth Taylor and Katharine Hepburn make up the mysterious drama Suddenly, Last Summer.
A wealthy widow, Violet Venable (Hepburn) calls on a young surgeon from Chicago (Clift) to perform a lobotomy on her niece Catherine (Taylor). Catherine has allegedly been defaming the reputation of Violet’s late son Sebastian, uttering “fantastic babblings” about the boy’s mysterious death while they were on vacation in Spain.
Violet hopes that the operation will pacify her niece and is desperate to go ahead with it despite Dr. Cukrowicz’s warnings about the dangers of the procedure. Does Violet really care for the mental state and well-being of her niece, or is she using the procedure to try to cover up a dark secret about her son?
Adapted by screenwriter Gore Vidal from the one-act play by Tennessee Williams, Suddenly, Last Summer is a thrilling film to watch, even for those who are already familiar with the original work.
Greed, anger and confusion are rampant as Violet, the head of an asylum and even Catherine’s own mother and brother battle against Catherine in an attempt to have her committed and lobotomized. But Catharine is more capable of fighting back than they think, and she uses just as much force to attempt to recall and expose the truth about Sebastian.
The performances are sometimes over-the-top but always very effective, taking the viewer on a complete emotional roller coaster full of twists and turns.
Though this is one of the best performances I’ve ever seen from Elizabeth Taylor, particularly striking is Katharine Hepburn, who in her typical fashion is absolutely on-point while portraying all of her character’s conflicting emotions about her son.
It’s safe to say that I personally should file this under the category of “Why in the heck did it take me so long to watch this?” As a big fan of Tennessee Williams and of the film’s entire cast, I’m not quite sure why it took me so long to track down a copy. Even after blindly purchasing the DVD because I had so much faith in the cast to carry out Williams’ tale, it sat on my shelf for a month or so before I finally got around to watching. Now that I finally have watched it, it’s sure to become a favorite. Vidal’s expanded version of Williams’ story is gripping, extremely dramatic and an all-around fantastic adaptation. The score: 4.5/5