USA | 1959 | 114 min. | PG
The only son of wealthy widow Violet Venable dies while on vacation with his cousin Catherine. What the girl saw was so horrible that she went insane; now Mrs. Venable wants Catherine lobotomized to cover up the truth.
Director: Joseph L. Mankiewicz
Cast: Elizabeth Taylor, Katharine Hepburn, Montgomery Clift
The movie for which the term psychodrama might well have been coined, Suddenly, Last Summer should sell itself on the movie madness front on the strength of its collaborators alone. Tennessee Williams wrote the play from which it is adapted. Gore Vidal did the adapting.
The setting is Williams’ steamy, tempestuous and dankly rotten New Orleans, and the plot touches upon a veritable smorgasbord of taboo subjects: lobotomy, alcoholism, incest, homosexuality, cannibalism.
Even by the standards of late ’50s hysteria over mental illness, Suddenly, Last Summer pushes the envelope until it rips wide open. Such disparate guardians of decency and moral responsibility as John Wayne and the New York Times’ Bosley Crowther cried foul over the movie’s outlandish flouting of good taste, which should be all you need to know to understand why Suddenly, Last Summer has become something of a must-see cult classic in the annals of movie madness. – GEOFF PEVERE