Suddenly, Last Summer [DVD] [1959]

This movie contains the shot of Elizabeth Taylor that remains one of the defining images in cinema: beautiful and defiant, the star is oblivious to the beach around her and stares directly into the camera. One of the strangest cinematic trips of the 1950s, the big-screen adaptation of Tennessee Williams' wonderfully overwrought Suddenly, Last Summer receives fine treatment from Columbia TriStar on this DVD. The widescreen anamorphic transfer is excellent and though the source print obviously hasn't been restored, it is relatively free of scratches and other blemishes. The Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono audio track lives up to the integrity of the original theatrical release and is well balanced. It would have been interesting for Columbia to use the DVD as an opportunity to contrast the film with Williams' racier, even darker play (which was filmed by PBS as recently as 1992) or to discuss in depth how cleverly the filmmakers skirted the censorship constraints of the day -- the famous, surreal ending beautifully handles such shocking themes as homosexuality, pedophilia, and cannibalism. However, there are a number of lesser extras such as production notes, a photo montage, a vintage advertising gallery, and trailers. The most important aspect of this DVD is that it restores Jack Hildyard's baroque widescreen black-and-white camera work. This edition of Suddenly, Last Summer looks great in comparison to the video release of the movie.
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Suddenly, Last Summer (DVD)  (Enhanced Widescreen for 16x9 TV)  (English/Spanish)  1959 - Larger Front
  • Suddenly, Last Summer (DVD) (Enhanced Widescreen for 16x9 TV) (English/Spanish) 1959
  • $7.99


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Special Features

  • Digitally mastered audio and video
  • Production notes
  • Interactive menus
  • Audio: English [mono], Spanish, Portuguese
  • Subtitles: English, Spanish, Portuguese, Chinese, Korean, Thai
  • Video photo montage
  • Vintage advertising
  • Talent files
  • Theatrical trailer
  • Bonus trailers
  • Scene selections


Suddenly, Last Summer
In this lush, lurid adaptation of the 1957 Tennessee Williams one-act, Elizabeth Taylor and Katharine Hepburn play a seemingly insane, young New Orleans debutante and the wealthy aunt who wants to lobotomize her. Dr. John Cukrowicz (Montgomery Clift) is a gifted Chicago brain surgeon stymied by the primitive operating conditions at the New Orleans asylum where he works. Society matron Violet Venable (Hepburn) offers a solution in the form of a million-dollar grant -- as long as Cukrowicz will treat her niece, Catherine (Taylor). Catherine, it seems, has been institutionalized since the sudden death of her cousin, Violet's son, Sebastian, overseas the previous summer. As the young doctor tries to get to the bottom of what happened to Catherine, Violet's steely demeanor and devotion to Sebastian present a formidable barrier. Catherine herself doesn't offer much help, her recollections jumbled by medication and the trauma of Sebastian's demise. Under pressure to seal the deal and cut into Catherine's brain, Cukrowicz's principles (and attraction to the young woman) prevent him from proceeding until he uncovers what actually happened to Sebastian. In his memoirs, Gore Vidal claims to have written the screenplay for Suddenly, Last Summer single-handedly, although Williams took half the credit. Vidal toned down the original play's allusions to pedophilia, cannibalism, and incest, but the film nonetheless provoked heated controversy. As for the cast, an unhappy Hepburn reportedly was threatened by the attention lavished on Taylor by director Joseph L. Mankiewicz, whom Hepburn had hired to produce The Philadelphia Story two decades earlier. Mankiewicz, for his part, allegedly hated Clift, whose drinking and partial paralysis from an auto accident prevented him from working more than half a day at a time. ~ Brian J. Dillard, Rovi

Cast & Crew

  • Elizabeth Taylor
    Elizabeth Taylor - Catherine Holly
  • Katharine Hepburn
    Katharine Hepburn - Mrs. Violet Venable
  • Montgomery Clift
    Montgomery Clift - Dr. John Cukrowicz
  • Albert Dekker
    Albert Dekker - Dr. Hockstader
  • Mercedes McCambridge
    Mercedes McCambridge - Mrs. Holly

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