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Suddenly Last Summer [DVD] [2002]

4.2 out of 5 stars 41 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Actors: Elizabeth Taylor, Katharine Hepburn, Montgomery Clift, Albert Dekker, Mercedes McCambridge
  • Directors: Joseph L. Mankiewicz
  • Writers: Gore Vidal, Tennessee Williams
  • Producers: Sam Spiegel
  • Format: Subtitled, PAL
  • Language: English
  • Subtitles: Dutch, English, French, German, Hindi, Italian, Portuguese, Spanish
  • Dubbed: French, German, Italian, Spanish
  • Region: Region 2 (This DVD may not be viewable outside Europe. Read more about DVD formats.)
  • Aspect Ratio: 16:9 - 1.85:1
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Classification: 15
  • Studio: Sony Pictures Home Entertainment
  • DVD Release Date: 11 Nov. 2002
  • Run Time: 110 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (41 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B00006LSJ0
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 9,602 in DVD & Blu-ray (See Top 100 in DVD & Blu-ray)
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Product description

Product Description

Elizabeth Taylor and Katharine Hepburn each received 1960 Oscar(r) nominations for Best Actress in this gripping adaptation of the Tennessee Williams play. Beautiful Catherine Holly (Elizabeth Taylor) is committed to a mental institution after witnessing the horrible death of her cousin at the hands of cannibals. Catherine's aunt, Violet Venable (Katharine Hepburn), tries to influence Dr. Cukrowicz(Montgomery Clift), a young neurosurgeon, to surgically end Catherine's haunting hallucinations. Byutilizing injections of sodium pentothal, Dr. Cukrowicz discovers that Catherine's delusions are, in fact, true. He then must confront Violet about her own involvement in her son's violent death.

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This black-and-white film adaptation of Tennessee Williams's Southern gothic play is perhaps more famous for the rumored off-screen shenanigans of its stars than for its over-the-top repressed sexuality (only Williams could pull off that paradox, and pull it off he does). Supposedly, stars Katharine Hepburn and Elizabeth Taylor battled for screen time; Hepburn warred very publicly with director Joseph Mankiewicz; and a post-accident Montgomery Clift relied heavily on painkillers and support from friend Taylor during the gruelling shoot. Even this, however, cannot top the events of the film itself, revolving around the unseen playboy Sebastian and his mysterious death, which has something to do with young boys, a decadent European vacation and Taylor in a provocative wet, white bathing suit. To give away the plot would spoil the fun, but suffice it to say that what Taylor saw was so horrible it drove her nuts, and Sebastian's mother (Hepburn) wants her to have a lobotomy in order to keep it from coming out; Clift is brought in to do the procedure. It's all a hoot and a holler, but as played by the two leading ladies (both of whom nabbed Oscar nominations), it's also compelling, chilling, and utterly gothic. Taylor gives a fierce performance, as the climaxing monologue that reveals Sebastian's "secret" rests entirely on her shoulders, and Hepburn plays brilliantly against type as Sebastian's manipulating, overbearing mother. Only Clift, saddled with a dreary character in charge of plot exposition, fails to deliver. Adapted by Gore Vidal. --Mark Englehart

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Customer Reviews

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Format: DVD
An adaptation of a Tennessee Williams play, this film is a clash of two characters, the rich widow Violet Venable (Katharine Hepburn) and her niece (Elizabeth Taylor) over what happened to Sebastian, the son of the older woman when on holiday in Spain with his cousin. If nothing else this film is worth for Katharine Hepburn alone. She gives one of the performances of her career (and one for which she got an Oscar nomination), even before she appears on the screen, her voice being heard as she descends in the lift - you'll never be able to forget it.
Quite daring for its time, I still find it a powerful story, and it ranks high among my favourites. The performances from the two ladies and Montgomery Clift and a strong direction from Joseph L. Mankiewicz have managed to avoid it to age, despite the topics it touches (homosexuality and mental illness). The DVD presents the film in a rather good copy, although not comparable to more recent black and white releases such as the restored "Casablanca", with some extras of no consequence.
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when Joseph Mankiewicz decided to direct this autobiographical play by Tennessee Williams he should have been warned about all the thorns in the road to artistic consummation but despite all the obstacles he has succeeded in creating an extra-ordinary masterpiece which exceeds the original from Williams and is the first mature look by Hollywood mainstream on the taboo subjects of closeted homosexuality ,cannibalism ,paedophilia and the extremely controversial subject of therapeutic lobotomy .

the bizarre tale involves an extremely wealthy and patronising American widow violet Venables who is grieving her dead son Sebastian who died an alleged accident somewhere in the mediterranean on a vacation suddenly last summer ,while accompanied by his gorgeous young cousin .
Mrs.Venables has hired a young neuro-surgeon with the sole purpose of having her distraught niece lobotomized for her incoherent and hysterical utterances regarding the circumstances of Sebastian's demise ,since she wants to protect her son's tarnished reputation which will be destroyed if the claims of her niece are regarded as the veritable truth .

the plot is almost borrowed from William's own life and GORE VIDAL rewrote the script where he gave the whole issue a very relevant and crucial tinge of truth while almost creating a literary script of immaculate superiority .

the sycophantic direction by Mr.
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"Suddenly Last Summer" (1959) is a strange, dark movie, directed by Joseph L. Mankiewicz and based on a play written by Tennessee Williams. This film touches many subjects that where highly controversial at the time it was made, for example mental illness, homosexuality and cannibalism. Truth to be told, a lot is to be inferred, and not much is shown. However, the fact that the characters hardly ever mention things that so obviously have to do with what happens makes those themes stand out even more.

The central question in this movie is, of course, "what happened last summer?", and the spectator will be immediately drawn into the mystery. Unfortunately for us, the only witness to what happened is Catherine Holly (Elizabeth Taylor), a beautiful and traumatized young woman who became mentally unbalanced after witnessing the death of her cousin Sebastian Venable. Her aunt, wealthy Mrs. Violet Venable (Katharine Hepburn), thinks that Catherine should be lobotomized. That is the reason why she urges neurosurgeon Dr. John Cukrowicz (Montgomery Clift) to perform the operation. However, Dr. Cukrowicz believes that his patient may not be mad, after all, and that Mrs. Violet Venable might want the lobotomy in order to destroy Catherine's mind. But what does Cathy know? What happened last summer?

On the whole, I think that you will like this movie, if you don't mind the somber tone that pervades it. Recommended!
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In 1959, the year of the release of The 400 Blows and the shooting of Breathless, a film like Suddenly Last Summer must have seemed quite far from the cutting edge, with its theatrical presentation and artificial, closed-in feel. The Hays Code meant that reference to its central theme, the homosexuality of Sebastian, could never even be mentioned directly. Yet this very constraint ends up by adding to its power, as so often where limitations are imposed in art. It resonates even more than it would otherwise, as the characters suffer from the same taboos inhibiting the film itself. Elizabeth Taylor (Catherine) witnessed her cousin Sebastian's death the summer before, and has since then been mentally unstable; Sebastian's mother wants her to undergo a lobotomy to silence her, as his death was the direct result of his abusing boys, or at least exploiting them, while on holiday with Catherine, who was used to lure them into his orbit. He was a shy poet, but not that shy, it seems ...

To add a further note of malice, the mother, played by Katharine Hepburn, wants to pay for a new wing of a hospital to be built as a legacy to her son's memory, so the hospital finds itself under pressure to perform the operation. The doctor in charge of the case is brilliantly portrayed by Montgomery Clift in another of those roles, a bit like his Father Logan in I Confess, where he has to juggle what he can and can't say, and shows immense discretion as well as a protective feeling towards someone in trouble. These three actors all give superb performances and the script, by Gore Vidal from a play by Tennessee Williams, is riveting.
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