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.
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A wealthy harridan, Violet Venable, attempts to bribe Dr. Cukrowicz, a young psycho-surgeon from a New Orleans mental hospital that is desperately in need of funds, into lobotomizing her niece, Catherine Holly. Violet wants the operation performed in order to prevent Catherine from defiling the memory of her son, the poet Sebastian. Catherine has been babbling obscenely about Sebastian's mysterious death that she witnessed while on holiday together in Spain the previous summer. Written by
Actor David Cameron is billed as "Young Blonde Interne". Blonde spelled with the extra e denotes a female. See more »
Strictly speaking, his life was his occupation. Yes, yes, Sebastian was a poet. That's what I meant when I said his life was his work because the work of a poet is th elife of a poet, and vice versa, the life of a poet is the work of a poet. I mean, you can't separate them. I mean, a poet's life is his work, and his work is his life in a special sense.
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(POSSIBLE SPOILER)...Gothic decadence gives Taylor and Hepburn striking roles...
While the symbolism here is about as heavy as a sledgehammer, it's offered in such artfully poetic style that only writers of the caliber of Tennessee Williams and Gore Vidal could give us. What they have done is provide KATHARINE HEPBURN with a role that fits her like a glove and where her mannered acting sits comfortably on a role she was born to play. She is totally mesmerizing as Mrs. Venable, a woman who has lavished all her hopes and dreams on her only son only to have them all swept away on a brutal summer day, "suddenly, last summer", under the hot Mediteranean sun. She gets to spout the most poetic dialog in the film, with ELIZABETH TAYLOR not far behind, especially during their frequent monologues.
This leaves MONTGOMERY CLIFT, as a surgeon who is asked to perform a lobotomy on Miss Taylor, hovering in the background and looking like a frightened sparrow most of the time, although it is he who uncovers the truth about last summer. Mr. Clift must have been at a difficult phase of his own personal life because he performs in a stiff, robot-like manner that makes him seem dubious as a skilled surgeon with steady hands.
All of this is highly melodramatic as only Tennessee Williams can muster, while at the same time affording us the luxury of watching two commanding performances from Hepburn and Taylor that were justifiably nominated for Oscars.
The tale seems burdened by too much heavy-handed poetry but somehow it holds the attention because of the forceful acting by a fine cast. Mercedes McCambridge is a standout as Taylor's mother in the sort of fluttery, birdbrain role one might suspect would be offered to Billie Burke if this had been filmed in the 1940s.
By the end of the film, Miss Hepburn is so far removed from reality that she thinks Dr. Sugar (Montgomery Clift) is her son Sebastian and seems more like a candidate for lobotomy than the plucky Miss Taylor. Taylor never quite has the air of vulnerability that the role demands, but she gives a colorful, if strident, performance as the poor victimized girl who was used as bait by her playboy cousin.
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