SUDDENLY LAST SUMMER, 1959
Unable to cope with her cousins death, Catherine Holly (Taylor) seemingly goes insane, keeping the truth of his death clouded in mystery; however, Ms. Venable (Hepburn) seeks to prevent Catherine from revealing the truth about her son by having her lobotomized.
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REVIEW: A classic novel by Tennessee Williams adapted to film, Suddenly, Last Summer is a captivating film with a shockingly horrific yet memorable ending. The weight of the film falls on the shoulders of leading ladies Elizabeth Taylor and Katherine Hepburn, both receiving Oscar nods for their pitch perfect performances. As Catherine (Taylor) struggles to maintain her sanity while confronting the truth behind her Sebastianís death, Ms. Venable (Hepburn) seeks to prevent Catherine from remembering and revealing the circumstances surrounding her sonís demise.
The story builds slowly, never rushing to the ending but working its way naturally to a conclusion as the truth becomes more and more apparent; is Catherine insane or is there something more to her story? Mankiewicz, director, succeeds in establishing these questions early on in the film, forcing the audience to question what exactly is going on. There are hints to suggest that Catherine is insane, however, Mankiewicz keeps the debate between her sanity and mental breakdown at the forefront.
The incident was so appalling and traumatizing that Catherine unknowingly repressed her memories, making it difficult for anyone to know what exactly happened on that island. Hepburnís character deems her insane and tries to have
The themes explored in the film were controversial not only for the 50ís but even for today, although not as shocking. Homosexuality was still a source of confusion for people of that era, especially since many seemed ignorant on the subject. Today people have a better understanding and, for the most part, an acceptance for peopleís sexual orientation.
Mankiewicz explores the subject without passing judgment or patronizing the audience, he simply shows Tennesseeís character as viewed in the book. Tennessee seems to have particular opinion in regards to homosexuals; however, his opinion does not hinder or take away from the film. The mystery is far more alluring than the actual death itself because the ripple effect brought about leads certain characters to make decisions to either bring the truth to light or keep it in the dark.
Katherine Hepburn is top notch as a mother trying desperately to preserve her sonís reputation, despite knowing about his sexual history. She wants to make sure he is remembered as an artist, and will do anything possible to make sure Catherine never exposes his past. The struggle between characters Catherine and Ms. Venable is the reason to watch this film specifically because of the demanding performances by Taylor and Hepburn. For those unfamiliar with the work of both actresses, Suddenly, Last Summer is a great place to start, especially for the final dramatic scene.
The truth, simply, is that they were being used by Sebastian as a means to attract local boys. He was a user and realizing and accepting that truth is more than either character can bear, leading to one of the women to truly lose grip on reality. A film like this today may not be as controversial as the original; however, the story is still captivating. Any fan of classic films that have yet to see this picture should include this on their must see list. An underrated and over looked gem, Suddenly, Last Summer is an example of great storytelling with an unusual yet rewarding twist intertwined with suspense and drama; the perfect recipe for an instant classic.