"Suddenly, Last Summer" (1959), B&W, 114'. Ranked 7.6/10 stars on IMDb. Adapted from a Tennessee Williams' play. Stars Katherine Hepburn, Elizabeth Taylor and Clift. Genre: Drama, mystery, thriller, psychological problems & treatments. The time set is 1937 but the hair styles and clothing are in the late 50s. Hepburn & Taylor were both nominated for Oscars as Best Actress. Shown as the 3rd of 3 Montgomery Clift films in the KU retirees' classic movie series.
A small state mental hospital, desperate for funds for adequate maintenance, is suddenly offered a huge sum of money by an extremely wealthy widow, "Violet" (Hepburn), if they'll lobotomize her niece "Catherine" (Taylor). A neurosurgeon (Clift) has recently joined its staff and lobotomies are his specialty.
An intense relationship (we slowly learn) existed between Violet and her only child, Sebastian, a "poet" who wrote one poem a year. Each summer for some years, he & she travelled abroad on extended vacations. Last summer, he left Mom behind and instead took his cousin Catherine who admired him almost as much as his mother. Sebastian died on this trip and Catherine was returned to the States in a very disturbed mental state, diagnosed with dementia praecox (schizophrenia), and then confined in a nearby Catholic hospital for mental illness.
Violet arranges Catherine's transfer to the state institution where this neurosurgeon (Clift) works, dangling before the hospital's superintendent, the surgeon, Catherine's mother and son large sums of money to facilitate lobotomizing Catherine.
To prevent Catherine from remembering and revealing the truth of what really occurred on these trips (hint: related to don't ask, don't tell).
But the surgeon is unwilling to lobotomize Catherine unless truly convinced the operation would help her condition. The superintendent, Catherine's mother & C's brother chafe against any delays in getting Violet's money; likewise, Violet wants to permanently seal Catherine's memory ASAP.
The doctor, using semi-therapy and counseling techniques, arranges a confrontation in which much of the truth is revealed.
Points of especial interest: Elizabeth Taylor's bosom (bigger than I remembered); Hepburn feeds flies to a gigantic Venus Flycatcher (plant) that parallels her own & Sebastian's use of people; and especially the ward scenes in the mental hospital.
Lobotomies (begun around '37) were among several (insulin, thermal & electric shock) physical techniques used in trying to calm or control the agitation of mental patients; the introduction in the mid '50s of medicinal tranquilizers (Thorazine, etc.) decreased the use of these techniques enormously. But the appearance of patients on the wards in this movie was quite similar to those in the '60s except most in the '60s were far calmer as long as medication had enough time to work. And the film brought back memories of working with a few who had lobotomies.
Roger Ebert: no review
IMDb (includes trailers & tons of details) Suddenly, Last Summer (1959)
Rotten Tomatoes: Suddenly, Last Summer Movie Reviews, Pictures - Rotten Tomatoes Their Tomatometer rates S,LS ripe by 100% of reviewers (samples on website) and 82% by audiences.
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