Filmsite Movie Review
Suddenly, Last Summer (1959)
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Background

Suddenly, Last Summer (1959) is a compelling adaptation by Gore Vidal of Tennessee Williams' Southern drama-one act play. This somber, ground-breaking and fascinating film concerns terrible secrets (homosexuality, insanity, murder and cannibalism). The film's provocative poster teased: "...suddenly last summer Cathy knew she was being used for something evil!"

The Story

Wealthy and ferocious New Orleans matron, Mrs. Violet Venable (Katharine Hepburn), is determined to have her niece, Catherine Holly (Elizabeth Taylor), drastically lobotomized. Catherine tells about a horrifying past incident during a vacation trip that has made her breakdown and become totally mad. The stories are about the death of Sebastian, Mrs. Venable's son and failed poet.

The wealthy dowager urges neurosurgeon Dr. John Cukrowicz (Montgomery Clift) (Cukrowicz means "sugar" in Polish) to act as a psychiatrist in the case. He is called in to seek the truth, treat and interview Catherine, and determine whether drastic measures are necessary. Mrs. Venable suggests a lobotomy to excise the memory of the incident and prevent the mad ravings from occurring.

In the film's final scene, tormented Catherine, in a climactic lengthy monologue, describes the bizarre murder of her predatory homosexual cousin Sebastian (son of his doting mother). While traveling with him in Spain during their vacation the previous summer, he used her as a means to attract and lure boys. The young boys turned on Sebastian and he was murdered. She describes how she watched his body being ravaged and cannibalized by angry young boys at the Spanish coastal resort:

He-he was lying naked on the broken stones...and this you won't believe! Nobody, nobody, nobody could believe it! It looked as if-as if they had devoured him!...As if they'd torn or cut parts of him away with their hands, or with knives, or those jagged tin cans they made music with. As if they'd torn bits of him away in strips!

At the film's end, Catherine (referring to herself in the third person) tells Dr. Cukrowicz that she has returned to a less painful present: "She's here, Doctor. Miss Catherine's here."