Tuesday, March 13, 2007


I've recently become taken by a blog known as 'The Ongoing Cinematic Education of Steven Carlson', which has inspired me to change my format for movie reviews, at lest for a trial run. So here it goes:

Movie: Suddenly, Last Summer (1959)
Setting: New Orleans, Louisiana 1937

Any movie based on a play by Tennessee Williams, particularly if that play is set largely in a mental institution and the home of an eccentric widow who wears white in mourning, is not going to be full of sunshine. Suddenly, Last Summer certainly has a creepy aura to it, from the early scenes of a lobotomy preformed in a mental hospital that used to be a children's school, to the final confrontation in Sebastin's primeval garden. Sebastin himself is the source of most of this black aura, though those in his inner circle where doubtlessly a little battyl even before the tragic events of the previous summer. You see, suddenly, last summer, the aspiring poet was struck dead, of what is claimed to have been a heart attack, while vacationing with his cousin Catherine (Elizabeth Taylor) in Spain. Cathy went a little crazy after that, and her aunt (who was also the late Sebastins Oedipaly devoted mother, played by Katharine Hepburn), has had her put up in a Catholic crazy house. The Nuns however wont keep the shapely young women on account of her lustful ways, which is why its so lucky for the venerable Mrs. Venable that the Polish-American doctor Cukrowicz (Montgomery Clift) form Chicago can do a mean lobotomy.

Dr. Cukrowicz however is a good, sane, and reasonable man (unlike everybody else in this film), who won't just mesh up Liz's Brian because the town dame, and the hospitals money desperate administrator (Albert Dekker) want him too. You see Dr. Cukrowicz likes Cathy, and is sure her psychological problems steam from having witnessed something horrible, no doubt suddenly, last summer. The truth is all bound up in how Sebastin really died, and the secret that he and his mother had protected so long, a secret the audience will probably pick-up on fairly early on, however the performances that it takes for the story to get there makes the time spent well worth it. A little stagy, but that's more then made up for by the creepy atmosphere.


Katharine Hebrun reportedly didn't get along with director Mankiewicz, but loved producer Speagle.

Screenplay by Tennesse Williams and Gore Vidal.

The last name of the hospital administrator, Hockstader, is the same as the folksy former President in Vidal's The Best Man.

Finally despite what the advertising says about 'six big stars', I'll give them Dekker and McCambridge, but Gary Raymond is pushing it.


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