Original release: December 22nd, cialis sale 1959
Running time: 114 minutes
Director: Joseph L. Mankiewicz
Writer: Gore Vidal, Tennessee Williams
Cast: Elizabeth Taylor, Katharine Hepburn, Montgomery Clift, Mercedes McCambridge
The human brain remains one of the greatest mysteries of our time. What are its limits, how much information can it process in a lifetime, and how does manage to store so many of our memories? These are just a handful of questions that come to mind when we start to think about it. And as for memories, they’re another curiosity. They’re like recordings of past events in our lives, but we can only remember our own experiences and not someone else’s, unless we’ve experienced it with them. Then sometimes we forget, we lost these memories. If the event itself proves to be so traumatic, our brains isolate the recording and we repress it.
Tennessee Williams touches on all of this in his controversial one-act play, Suddenly, Last Summer, which first opened off Broadway on January 7th, 1958. Its plot centers on Catharine, a poor relation of a prominent New Orleans family who’s been driven insane following the mysterious death of her cousin Sebastian while they were on holiday in Europe. Sebastian’s controlling mother, Violet Venable has Catharine committed and plans on having her lobotomized in an attempt to suppress the truth about what her son really was and how he died. Using her money to persuade the hospital go ahead with the lobotomy, she hopes Dr. John Cukrowicz (Montgomery Clift) will carry out with the procedure, but when he begins to take an interest in Catherine and psychoanalyze her, the whole sordid truth is suddenly in danger of rushing back to her memory.
The film adaptation, starring Elizabeth Taylor, Katherine Hepburn and Montgomery Clift, was released in 1959, and while Williams denounced the screenplay and casting of Taylor and Vidal criticized the ending, which had been altered by director Joseph Mankiewicz, Suddenly, Last Summer remains a truly intriguing and engaging film. With its Gothic undertones and style of cinematography, the film carries a darkness with its seediness creeping through like the vines in Violet’s greenhouse.
As Catherine gradually comes out of her medicine-induced stupor to tell Cukrowicz the truth about what happened in Europe, Violet continues to declare that she’s babbling nothing by utter nonsense. Eventually we see it’s not the niece who’s insane, but actually the aunt. While Taylor the plays the role with anguish and conviction, it’s Hepburn who really steals the show as the senile and overprotective mother who can’t bear the truth about her son.
Meanwhile, Clift, who’d dazzled in films such as A Place In The Sun (1951) alongside Taylor, comes across like a shadow of his former self following the horrific car crash in 1956, while filming Raintree County, another film with Taylor. We see him here playing Cukrowicz as if he could’ve been played by anyone else; he’s merely a tool to move the story along and leaves it to his leading ladies to shine in their roles without stealing their limelight.
The film suffers greatly from the restraints imposed by the Hays Production Code and as a result Suddenly, Last Summer comes across a lot tamer than its source material, which no doubt must’ve angered Williams and Vidal. Despite this, there’s still a lot to marvel at including the strong performances by Taylor and Hepburn and the cinematography by Jack Hildyard, all surmounting to a film that although gives us another doomed Hollywood homosexual, is rife with drama, horror and beauty.
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