Pretty Poison [DVD]
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Dark cult thriller starring Anthony Perkins and Tueday Weld. Psychotic arsonist Dennis Pitt (Perkins) has just been release from prison and meets young high school student Sue Ann (Weld). Convincing her that he is a secret agent on a dangerous mission, Pitt and Sue Ann team up to pursue a life or murder and mayhem. But it soon becomes unclear exactly who is manipulating whom, as Sue Ann gradually convinces Pitt to help in the murder of her own mother.
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Top Customer Reviews
"Pretty Poison" starts with a beautifully sly-solemn scene in which Perkins is about to be sprung from prison, or maybe from an insane asylum. "You're going out into a very real and very tough world," his earnest probation officer warns him. "It's got no place for fantasies." Quick cut to reality: Miss Weld in her majorette outfit, waving her baton to beat the band and giving a distinct impression that the film is up to something special.
"Pretty Poison" is a special film indeed, and Hollywood financiers and merchandisers were struck even dumber than usual by the problems of selling special pictures. With no conviction of their own about its character, 20th Century-Fox, the film's distributor, picked the name of this one by taking a poll, dropping its original provocative title, "She Let Him Continue" from the book by Stephen Geller. Having settled on a conventionally lurid title, they certified its apparent shoddiness with squalid little newspaper ads.Read more ›
Pure definition of a culter movie? Probably Pretty Poison. A wonderfully odd neo-noir that's as cunning as a fox, Noel Black's movie flummoxed many upon release but the underground swell of the cult enthusiasts has ensured this particular poison is still around to be swallowed.
Plot finds Perkins as troubled Dennis Pitt, an arsonist as a youth and fantasist as an adult, he's just been released from a mental health facility, in spite of his parole officer's reservations. Beginning his employment at a chemical factory, Dennis comes into contact with young high school drum majorette, Sue Anne Stepanek (Weld), and lets her believe he is a secret agent. Little does he know, but Sue is only too happy to indulge his fantasies, since she herself is harbouring some unhealthy desires.
Much like the brilliant film noir movie Gun Crazy (1950), Pretty Poison upturns the standard boy and girl crime spree formula by having the girl be the one doing the damage. Dennis Pitt has absolutely no idea how not in control of the relationship he is, he's beguiled by Sue, thinking he has finally found a soul mate to share in his fantasies, but she's pulling all the strings, luring him into a web of chaos from which he is completely incapable of escaping from.
With the characterisations firmly in place, where both Weld and Perkins are on top form, Black and his tech team pump discoloured blood through the picture's veins.Read more ›
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Adapted by Lorenzo Semple, Jr., from Stephen Geller's twisted love story "She Let Him Continue," opens with Perkins' Dennis Pitt being released from a psychiatric institution or prison for committing arson. The probation officer warns: "You're going into a real, tough world. It's no place for fantasies." First thing Dennis sees when he settles in a small town is seductive, pouty Sue Ann Stepanek (Weld), a girl with serious attitude problems, in her majorette outfit. Uh oh.
This deliciously demented black comedy focuses on what happens when two pathologies collide. It's a forerunner to movies like Bonnie and Clyde, Badlands and Blue Velvet.
Perkins and Weld have great chemistry as the two dodgy lovebirds. She merrily lets him pretend he's a CIA agent but deviously manipulates his fantasies to her own ends.
Beverly Garland is Weld's sexually charged, domineering mom. But it's Perkins and Weld at their best that make this rare gem from the 60s worth finding. I liked director Noel Black's forthright commentary on the Region 2 version (Amazon UK). Wonder why it's missing on the US version?
Rated: R (Originally X in the UK). Genre: Crime Thriller/Romance. 1 Hour, 29 Minutes. Starring: Tuesday Weld, Anthony Perkins, Beverly Garland. Director: Noel Black
Tuesday Weld smokes in this, playing a young girl whose initial, apparent innocence proves too much for Anthony Perkins who is perfect as a troubled young man who is caught in his own fantasy-world.
I'm so happy this has finally been released! I've enjoyed it in late-night airings for years on television.
Now if only "The Shuttered Room" will get released, I can die a happy man!
Anthony Perkins plays Dennis Pitt who leaves the mental institution where he has been confined for some time. Dennis has had problems caused by an overactive imagination and trouble separating fact from fantasy.
He moves to a small town where a job has been arranged for him at a chemical plant. When he becomes infatuated with a seventeen year-old high school student, Sue Ann Stepanek (Tuesday Weld), he involves her in a plan to sabotage the plant because it is polluting the waterways. However events overwhelm him, and Sue Ann shows that she is a strong and ruthless character with none of Dennis' illusions about life. In fact, she has a scheme of her own and matricide in mind.
The end of the movie sees Dennis back in jail where he is visited by Mr Azenauer his parole officer, who realises he is not guilty. He asks Dennis why he does not protest his innocence. Dennis replies with a classic line: "I've learned that people only pay attention to what they discover for themselves". "Pretty Poison" is full of offbeat wisdom such as this.
At first glance, Anthony Perkins and Tuesday Weld's roles seem to be the stereotypes from which both actors were trying to free themselves. In Perkins case it was from the neurotic, arrested personality he had made his own in "Psycho". Tuesday Weld brought with her memories of Thalia Menninger the gap-toothed nymphet from "The Many Loves of Dobie Gillis". Both their parts in "Pretty Poison" were beautifully realised variations of those characters - but with a twist. Perkins invested Dennis Pitt with a vulnerability and sensitivity that ends up making him the most worthwhile character in the movie.
"Pretty Poison" has a lightness of touch. Its power comes from a witty script, assured but understated direction, and the remarkable performances of the two leads. Johnny Mandel with his trademark flutes over lush strings provided the score for the film, and although it works effectively enough, it is one of the few elements, other than surface superficialities, which date it to the period when it was made. And that's the thing about "Pretty Poison"; it still seems amazingly fresh even after nearly fifty years.
Now that "Pretty Poison" is on DVD, it is bound to surprise and reward a whole new audience that, in the words of Dennis Pitt, will discover it for themselves.