Suddenly, Last Summer
The temperature in NYC today has finally made the 12 Days Of Summer Movies feel seasonal — 95 stinky degrees, ladies and germs — and it doesn't get any more overheated than Tennessee Williams and Gore Vidal's screenplay for Suddenly, Last Summer. To which Bunting says, "…Not suddenly enough, mofo."
Mrs. Venable (Katharine Hepburn) is…how to put it? Somewhat overinvested in Sebastian, her late son. She's equally overinvested in hiding the circumstances of his death (which in turn will reveal certain scandalous truths about how he lived), and to that end wishes to have the only eyewitness to Sebastian's mysterious demise, his cousin Catherine (Elizabeth Taylor), lobotomized before she can spill the beans. It's up to Dr. Cukrowicz (Montgomery Clift) to pull the truth out of Catherine, thus proving that she isn't crazy, before Mrs. Venable can pressure Cukrowicz and his boss to put Catherine under the knife.
Summer Timeline: The movie's title refers to the summer previous, so there isn't really the traditional Memorial-Day-to-Labor-Day time period, although the last half hour of the film seems to take three months to unfold. But despite the fact that the "horrid," "obscene" reality of Sebastian's exit is couched so carefully for 1959 audiences — and overacted so screechily by Taylor — that it's difficult for the audience to discern what really happened, Cukrowicz does complete his assignment, and from the looks of things he probably gets the girl as well.
Enviable Vacation Locale?: Well, let's see: two mental institutions; the Venables' garden, which symbolizes suffocation, obfuscation, and gnarled roots strangling the life out of blah blah Jesus is Tennessee Williams obvious; the merciless mid-summer sun under which Sebastian is brutally murdered…big ixnay on the "enviable."
Coming Of Age?: Not so much. Coming to grips with unpleasant facts, maybe.
Quick-Burning Summer Romance?: Um. Here's the deal: because you'll have a hard time knowing for sure what's happening if you see the film yourself, I'll just break it down for you. The big secret is that 1) Sebastian is gay; 2) he used his mother, and then Catherine when his mother got too old, to "procure" men for him (using a woman as a decoy would not seem designed to turn up other gay men, but maybe that's how they rolled back in the day); 3) after several weeks of liaisons with the Spanish Riviera's local underage talent (including, it's implied, some S&M), a gang of boys chases Sebastian up to an ancient ruin, sets upon him, and tears him to bits, including ripping his goolies off and stuffing them in his mouth. …Yeah. So, "quick-burning," sure. "Summer," yes. "Romance," nooooo no no.
Best Summer Ever?: Creo que no.
Summer Fashions: Liz Taylor rocks some tiny-waisted dresses, but also one deeply unflattering (and see-through) white bathing suit. Other than that, standard-issue late-fifties dowd.
Worth The A/C?: Ish. It's much too long, it doesn't pay off the length with a juicy disclosure, and the acting is suspect — Hepburn does a good job with large quantities of purple exposition, and Taylor is quite nuanced prior to her big finish, but there's entirely too much keening and fakey sobbing and hysterical (but careful, so as not to muss the coif) grabbing of the head. Montgomery Clift was allegedly in such an advanced state of alcoholism during filming that he kept blowing his lines, and it shows; Gary Raymond, who plays George Holly, must have had naked pictures of someone, because he's awful, and not since Brenda Walsh went to Paris have I witnessed such wretched accent work — if you go by this movie, New Orleans is somewhere in western Massachusetts. Massachusetts, Quebec. That said, if your other choice is sweating balls in front of reruns, a peanut gallery and a six-pack of Bud tall boys could make it a worthwhile watch.
As A Summer Movie: Flat C. Slow, confusing, nobody takes their shirts off or blows shit up.
Tags: 12 Days Of Summer Movies