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Monday, March 23, 2009

TENNESSEE WILLIAMS: GENIUS OR TOTAL FUCKING MANIAC?

WARNING!!! HERE THERE BE SPOILERS!

Elizabeth Taylor orders an all-beef frank in the film version of SUDDENLY, LAST SUMMER (1959).

Man, I love the plays of Tennessee Williams and how he perfectly captures the fucked-up sensibility of dysfunctional Southern families (I was raised in the Northeast but my lineage hails from deep in Alabama and Mississippi, so I truly get what he was going for), most especially as seen in A STREETCAR NAMED DESIRE (1947) and CAT ON A HOT TIN ROOF (1955). Yet one work of his that I have not seen is SUDDENLY, LAST SUMMER, a one act play from 1958 that focuses on such Williams thematic mainstays as mental illness, homosexuality and general human weirdness, but what makes this one ever so special is the bizarro catalyst for its parade of misery. I've been aware of the story's content for years and I have no idea what popped it into my head today, but I've gotta see the movie one of these days for reasons that will instantly become apparent once you've read this Wikipedia synopsis:

The play features Catherine Holly, a young woman who seems to go insane after her cousin Sebastian dies on a trip to Europe under mysterious circumstances. Sebastian's mother, Violet Venable, tries to cloud the truth about her son's homosexuality and his death, as she wants him to be remembered as a great artist. She threatens to lobotomize Catherine for her incoherent utterances relating to Sebastian's demise. Finally, under the influence of a truth serum, Catherine tells the gruesome story of Sebastian's death by cannibalism at the hand of local boys whose sexual favors he sought. Both his mother and later Catherine were only devices for him to attract the young men.

The cannibalism flashback from the movie... What the fuck, dude?!!?

Yes, you read that right: cannibalism. Motherfucking cannibalism committed by underage boys who were the target of some vile chickenhawk!!! I cannot imagine just what the fuck was going through Williams' head when he unleashed that one on unsuspecting audiences just over fifty years ago, but that element and the pedophilia must have been one hell of a kick in the head for people who probably had enough trouble dealing with all the gay stuff in his various works.

Seriously, fucking cannibalism! That's just plain balls-out crazy and another reason why I wish I could have met Williams' drugged-out alcoholic ass. Blanche DuBois' rape in STREETCAR was hardcore enough, but having a character devoured by a bunch of goddamned kids? Maniacal genius.

4 comments:

Anonymous said...

SPOILER!!

The cannibalism wasn't focused on random fingers and toes: The boys ate his wiener.

The film is hard to watch, but not so much because of that, since it isn't revealed until the end. Monty Clift was in it not long after his accident. His once-gorgeous face was pretty scarred up and partially paralyzed, as well as part of his body and it's difficult to shoot around. An interesting juxtaposition is to watch this film after "A Place in the Sun," also starring Clift and his good friend Taylor. Yep, he was gay, but there was some steamy heat generated between these two buddies and though they tried a little bit to generate a similar heat for a moment or two in "Suddenly," it just feels forced and sad.

Hepburn's a shrew in it. She's the epitome of every parody of her. The scenery must have been made of metal, or she'd have chewed right through it.

Bunche said...

If all those kids ate that guy's Johnson, it must have been pretty big for there to have been enough to go around!

Anonymous said...

He had big balls.

RICK PARKER said...

Steve, as a boy from the South I can't speak for Tennessee Williams, but having known a few like him, I feel confidant in saying that he would have liked you. Your cogent observations go far toward stimulating interest in his work among the uninitiated.