Suddenly, Last Summer (1959)

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Released 12-Jul-2005

Cover Art

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Drama Gallery-Photo-Video Photo Montage
Gallery-Poster-Vintage Advertising
Filmographies-Cast & Crew
Trailer-28 Days
Rating Rated M
Year Of Production 1959
Running Time 109:37
RSDL / Flipper RSDL (63:56) Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 2,4 Directed By Joseph L. Mankiewicz

Sony Pictures Home Entertain
Starring Elizabeth Taylor
Katharine Hepburn
Montgomery Clift
Albert Dekker
Mercedes McCambridge
Gary Raymond
Mavis Villiers
Patricia Marmont
Joan Young
Maria Britneva
Sheila Robbins
David Cameron
Case ?
RPI $14.95 Music Malcolm Arnold
Buxton Orr

Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
French Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
German Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
Italian Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
Spanish Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 1.78:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 1.85:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English
Smoking Yes
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis


Mrs Venable: 'And then Suddenly, Last Summer...'

Dr Cukrowicz: '...your son died?'

   To use a cliché, they just don't make 'em like this any more. This is a dramatic and intriguing gothic mystery thriller, played by great actors and written by a great playwright, that works as a film on the basis of its excellent and thought-provoking dialogue. I knew nothing of this film when I chose to review it except that it starred two of Hollywood's greatest leading ladies, Katharine Hepburn & Elizabeth Taylor, both of whom where nominated for Best Actress for this film. As if this wasn't enough of a reason to see the film, the male lead is Montgomery Clift, the director is Joseph L Mankiewicz and the screenplay is by Tennessee Williams & Gore Vidal. What a great collection of talent!

    Suddenly, Last Summer is set in 1937, New Orleans (despite being filmed in London) and concerns a young experimental surgeon, Dr John Cukrowicz (Montgomery Clift) who specialises in 'psychosurgery' or more specifically lobotomies. He is working in a run down state owned mental institution where there is really not enough funds to provide the required amount and quality of surgical equipment and facilities. He receives word through the administrator of the asylum that a rich widow living in New Orleans, Mrs Violet Venable (Katharine Hepburn) wishes to talk to him to discuss how she can assist with his work. He arrives at her strange and mysterious house and finds her to be an eccentric woman who is obviously obsessed with the memory of her dead son, Sebastian. He died the previous summer whilst on holidays with her niece by marriage, Catherine Holly (Elizabeth Taylor). Mrs Venable usually accompanied her son on these holidays but was unable to go the previous summer. Mrs Venable explains to Dr Cukrowicz that Catherine was so traumatised by the death of Sebastian that she has been committed to a nearby mental institution but that because of her violence they wish to make her leave. Accordingly, Mrs Venable explains that she will support the doctor's work financially if he will agree to perform a lobotomy on Catherine to solve the problem of her violence. As Dr Cukrowicz becomes more involved with the case, he realises that everything is not necessarily as Mrs Venable would have him believe and he must decide for himself what course of action to take. Also featured are George Holly (Gary Raymond), Catherine's brother and her mother (Mercedes McCambridge).

    Both Hepburn and Taylor are magnificent in this film and this film seems to be more famous for its off-screen blow-up between the stars and director than for the film itself. Some of the problems seem to be related to Montgomery Clift, as he was still recovering from a bad motorcycle accident and Hepburn objected to the way he was treated. The motorcycle accident probably contributed to Clift coming across as a little stiff in this film. I found the film intriguing and powerful, despite the final revelations being a little predictable.

    If you enjoy classic Hollywood drama or gothic thrillers this is definitely one to seek out. Fans of the stars should definitely also take a look at this to see both Katharine Hepburn and Elizabeth Taylor in top form.

Don't wish to see plot synopses in the future? Change your configuration.

Transfer Quality


    The video quality is very good.

    The feature is presented in a 1.78:1 aspect ratio 16x9 enhanced which close to the original aspect ratio of 1.85:1.

    The picture was clear and sharp throughout, with no evidence of low level noise. Some grain was present throughout. Shadow detail was also very good.

    The film is black and white and the contrast was very good with clear delineation between black, white and shades of grey. Unfortunately, there was a slightly annoying flicker in some scenes which was somewhat distracting.

    From an artefacts perspective there was quite a few film artefacts both positive and negative although generally they were not too bad. At approximately 45:50 there was a section with more film artefacts present. Very minor aliasing was also present such as on a sign at 2:10 and on some Venetian blinds.

    There are subtitles in 8 languages including English. The English subtitles were clear and easy to read although some words were missed here and there.

    The layer change occurs at 63:56 and was not noticeable.

Video Ratings Summary
Shadow Detail
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts


    The audio quality is good although not without some minor issues.

    This DVD contains five audio options, an English Dolby Digital 2.0 mono soundtrack encoded at 192 Kb/s and the same in French, German, Italian and Spanish.

    Dialogue was clear and easy to understand and there was no problem with audio sync, although there was some rather obvious ADR work from time to time. Overall, the volume was lower than other DVDs and required the volume to be higher than normal.

    The score of this film by Buxton Orr & Malcolm Arnold was a highlight.

    The surround speakers and subwoofer were not used.

Audio Ratings Summary
Audio Sync
Surround Channel Use



    The menu was very simple including still photos and no music. It provided functions for language, scene and subtitle selection.

Video Photo Montage (7:44)

    Presented non 16x9 enhanced, this extra is movie posters and photos (both from the film and behind the scenes) set to sections of the score and dialogue from the film. Not bad and includes some interesting images.

Vintage Advertising

    A gallery of three posters for the film.


    Selective text filmographies for the director, Hepburn, Taylor & Clift.

Trailer - 28 Days

    Bizarrely, the disc includes a trailer for the modern Sandra Bullock film, 28 Days. One assumes this choice is related to that film having something to do with mental illness!

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

    This movie has recently been released in Region 1 in a very similar format. A review I have read of the Region 1 version indicates that the transfer contains more compression artefacts as it is on a single layer rather than spread over two layers as we have here. The Region 2 version is exactly the same as ours. On this basis I would go for the local product.


    An intriguing and powerful gothic thriller from 1959 featuring great acting by Katharine Hepburn & Elizabeth Taylor.

    The video quality is very good.

    The audio quality is good.

    The disc includes some minor extras.

Ratings (out of 5)


© Daniel Bruce (Do you need a bio break?)
Sunday, August 07, 2005
Review Equipment
DVDPioneer DV667A DVD-V DVD-A SACD, using Component output
DisplaySony FD Trinitron Wega KV-AR34M36 80cm. Calibrated with Digital Video Essentials (PAL). This display device is 16x9 capable. This display device has a maximum native resolution of 576i (PAL)/480i (NTSC).
Audio DecoderBuilt in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with Video Essentials.
AmplificationPioneer VSX-511
SpeakersBose 201 Direct Reflecting (Front), Phillips SB680V (Surround), Phillips MX731 (Center), Yamaha YST SW90 (Sub)

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