Suddenly, Last Summer takes us on a journey to find the truth in a death that lead to one young woman’s mental breakdown. Mrs. Violet Venable is a lonely old woman mourning the death of her husband and more so her beloved son Sebastian. He was taken from her a year earlier in a suspicious way and she won’t let go of his exalted life. Mrs. Venable is a rich woman, so she uses this as leverage in a call she places to a local mental hospital for help. It seems that she needs to fix the unstable mind of her niece currently held in captivity at another home. An up and coming neurological doctor by the name of Cukrowicz is given the task to find out what’s wrong with her niece Catherine and to see if she’s the right fit for a delicate lobotomy procedure. Upon meeting her, the doctor realizes she’s more than in her right mind. Catherine’s not suffering from insanity, but grief from a disastrous secret that implicates Mrs. Venable’s dead son. It seems that Catherine was the last one to see him alive and Mrs. Venable is determined to get rid of her for fear of the lies she’ll spread about her son. Dr. Cukrowicz makes it his mission to get the truth from Catherine and expose the situation to all. After a serious of tumultuous meetings and antagonizing back and forth, the young girl spills to her aunt and family of Sebastian’s less than holy pursuits. He was a deviant who received a horrendous ending to his seducingly sick life. Catherine is left with relief and Mrs. Venable is left with her precious memories untainted by the sin of the truth.
Tennessee William’s plays are such a powerhouse of emotions and baggage; it’s hard not to get involved with the drama relinquished onto the screen. He delights in exposing the truth hidden in a worldly mind trying to cope with reality by disguising who they really are. Even if the screen adaptation falls less than the stage, his words reverberate through the picture often at times upstaging the actor speaking them. Katharine Hepburn is dynamite as a Southern widow (still keeping a studied accent). Her sardonic wit cuts through each scene and leaves her fellow actor sized down in comparison. Katharine’s quick wit and advantage of being the gracious donator put her in a position of power that she thrives best in with each new role. Even after she’s put into perspective with the advent of the truth of her son’s homosexual and deviant exploits, she maintains her own advantage in sticking to the dream world she’s created in her mind. Elizabeth Taylor is great as the shrieking girl trying desperately to get out of the situation she’s flung into. You root for her character as you would a heroine in a horror movie, wishing only slightly that she gets hers in the end. Despite it’s exploitation of rape, suicide, and homosexuality in the throws of Southern charm, you’re still able to sink into the film with the knowledge that you can’t hide from the truth of the human heart.