Cat on a Hot Tin Roof: Deluxe Edition
R4 - Australia - Warner Home Video
Review written by and copyright: Noor Razzak and Tom Williams (20th August 2006).
The Film

"Cat on a Hot Tin Roof" is a classic film, which means several things. It's a film that a great deal of people have seen, iconic of the time in which it was produced- and consequently, probably less enjoyable to a young audience who are uncomfortable with it's relatively crude techniques. It's also very, very good. There is enormous pleasure to be had from this film, and it's not all from watching a young Elizabeth Taylor slink around in her white dress. The repression felt by almost every character in the film is practically palpable, as truth is revealed in the sweltering southern heat. The screenplay is based on the stage play of the same name by acclaimed playwright Tennessee Williams, who also wrote the similarly iconic "A Streetcar Named Desire" (1951). Though Williams' story originally contained themes that censors saw fit to remove from this film version of his work, the entire piece still smolders with a visceral intensity, not least because of the sensual Elizabeth Taylor.
"Cat on a Hot Tin Roof" is the story of Maggie "The Cat" (Taylor) and her husband Brick Pollit (Paul Newman), a handsome, brooding, angry alcoholic who no longer touches his sensual wife. Brick's sexual confusion was an element of Williams' original play, and although it is extremely watered down for the film production, the basic tension between Brick and Maggie, stemming from their total lack of intimacy, is still tight enough to hang the whole film on. Brick is an ex-football player, whose career choice saw him suspend mature emotional and intellectual development. The suicide of Brick's close (homosexual) friend Skipper has cut Brick adrift from the world he knows and left him apathetic, impotent, lonely and nursing a broken ankle-one of many blows to Brick's self-image as a strong, powerful man.
Brick's father, "Big Daddy" Pollit (played by Burl Ives, who also played the role on stage) is turning 65, and also secretly struggling with terminal cancer, occasioning the family to come together and squabble over who gets the family fortune. Maggie is both determined and desperate to have the inheritance bestowed on Brick rather than his greedy brother Gooper (Jack Carson) and Gooper's shrew of a wife Mae (Madeleine Sherwood)- Maggie's own life spent poor and without respect has marked her deeply. After getting married in a second-hand dress originally belonging to her loathed cousin, her husband's irresponsibility in quitting his job as a sports announcer worries and angers her- yet this anger is nothing compared to the hurt and frustration she feels at her husband's constant rejection, which has so removed the passion from their marriage that they no longer share a bed.
All these psychological elements, and more, are revealed over the course of the film; as Maggie tries to regain love and intimacy from her husband, as Brick finally honestly considers his role in his family and his love for his father, as Big Daddy faces the unexpected arrival of his own mortality, we see slightly watered-down, more palatable (for the time) elements of Williams' original focus on the realistic underbelly of everyday American life. Though these topics are hardly shocking today, the performances manage to inject life and vigour into the film even for today's audiences. The driving drama and melodrama, attention to elements of masculinity and femininity that often get glossed over and frank portrayals of sexuality and family dysfunction are what cement this film as a classic. "Cat on a Hot Tin Roof" paved some roads in cinema, but more importantly, did so while creating a film worth watching.


Presented in a widescreen ratio of 1.78:1, this anamorphic transfer presents the film the best shape it's probably looked in years. While occasionally soft the image is bright and vibrant. Colours are rendered as such and skin tones are realistic. The film has been given a decent restoration as there are no marks, dirt, scratches or other flaws associated with films of its age. This is a glorious edition that should please just about every one.


This film includes three audio tracks all of which are in Dolby Digital 1.0 mono, and are in English, French and Italian. For the purposes of this review I chose to view the film with its English soundtrack. Considering its age and the fact that this is a dialogue driven film the mono track is in fact the film's original sound format. There would be no point in up-mixing or creating a new 5.1 track for this film, Warner's instead wisely restored the original mix. The dialogue is crystal clear and is presented without any flaws such as pops, clicks, drop-outs and other noise that is evident on older films.
Optional subtitles are also included in English, English for the hearing impaired, Italian, Italian for the hearing impaired, Dutch, French, Romanian, Arabic and Bulgarian.


The disc includes an audio commentary by biographer Donald Spoto, author of "The Kindness of Strangers: The Life of Tennessee Williams". This track is almost as good as the film itself. With total honesty, Spoto's track is one of the most interesting to be found on any film to date, and the sheer level of critical analysis one could do on a film/play like "Cat on a Hot Tin Roof" gives someone as intelligent and educated as Spoto a wide variety of ways to keep us informed and entertained. He is relaxed, yet poised to annotate, clearly knowledgeable and easy to listen to. Many of his insights into symbolism and those elements of the film changed or removed were extremely worthwhile and interesting. The commentary track is highly recommended- which is just as well, given the limited range of additional features on the disc.

The lightweight featurette "Cat on a Hot Tin Roof: Playing Cat and Mouse" which runs for 10 minutes and 3 seconds is perhaps worth a first look, but pales in comparison to the commentary. It is a short focus on Newman and Taylor, viewing the film as a turning-point in their careers, featuring some short snippets of conversation from Spoto as well as others, and briefly addresses the death of Taylor's husband one week into filming, in the crash of a plane Taylor was for some time meant to be on.

We're also given the film's original theatrical trailer which runs for 2 minutes 19 seconds and as much as anything is a nice piece of history for anyone who enjoyed the film- which, given that we watched it in the right frame of mind, should be all of us.


The Film: A+ Video: A Audio: A Extras: B Overall: A


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