Cat on a Hot Tin Roof

Tennessee Williams
Warner Home Video

As one watches Paul Newman and Elizabeth Taylor slugging it out, it is amazing to think that this movie version of Tennessee Williams' Pulitzer prize-winning hit is almost fifty years old.

It still packs a mighty punch with its exploration of a dysfunctional family ruled over with a rod of iron by Burl Ives' imposing Big Daddy.

As the storm clouds build up to a really explosive night, the family gathers to celebrate the ailing patriarch's 65th birthday. What neither they nor he know at the beginning of the day is that the illness which has just been announced to be benign is in fact fatal.

Even so, with the ineffectual Big Momma little more than a bystander, his two sons, or more particularly their wives, fight over the inheritance dealing some very low blows.

Tennessee Williams has always been good at portraying losers and in this case, Paul Newman's Brick, a former professional football star and commentator is on the alcoholic skids following the loss of his "friend" Skipper. Quite what their relationship consisted of is not made clear but the subtext is obvious to those who know Williams' work.

Grabbing the eye with every appearance is Elizabeth Taylor playing Brick's wife, Maggie the Cat. She has a bond with her father-in-law which is more than she has ever achieved in the rocky relationship that she has with her husband.

While the young sot may not be very likeable, he comes off favourably when compared with his wimpish older brother, Jack Carson's Gooper, and truly awful sister-in-law, Sister-Woman given impressive conviction by Madeleine Sherwood.

The 100-minute play reaches a satisfying conclusion as Brick and his father make up and finally reached an acceptance of what life should mean for each of them. The final curtain comes down (or more accurately the final titles should roll) as another reconciliation takes place marked by the long-awaited metaphorical and possibly actual consummation of Brick and Maggie's three-year-old marriage.

This DVD is great as a stand-alone purchase and also forms part of the newly-issued Tennessee Williams Film Collection exclusively available from HMV at £44.99.

Reviewer: Philip Fisher

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