|Submitted by filmfactsman |
(Sep 03, 2005)
Norman Bates goes steady with teenage Rhoda Penmark!
Deservedly one of the most acclaimed sleepers of the Sixties, "Pretty Poison" is a neat, deft and beautifully performed chiller wherein Tuesday Weld and Tony Perkins stunningly portray a couple of clean-cut kids out on a murder spree. This 89-minute film is so tightly, tautly constructed that the complexities of plot and, even more important, of character, will emerge plain. For while contemporary in theme and technique, this 1968 movie is old-fashioned in the best sense in that it tells us of the monsters who walk among us in the sunlight disguised as pretty people. With a notably adroit screenplay by Lorenzo Semple, Jr., and a promising debut from young director Noel Black, "Pretty Poison" also boasts a vivid performance by Beverly Garland as Weld's sexually competitive mother.
"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 proactive 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. The film was ready to be released in July of '68 but the producers were scared to death of the violence in it in the wake of two political assassinations. They waited, therefore, until The National Rifle Association had regained control of the country, and dumped it on the market without further ado.
I recently attended a screening of "Pretty Poison" at the American Cinematheque in Hollywood with its director Noel Black making a personal appearance. The film played beautifully and during the Q & A discussion afterwards, the audience was overwhelmingly responsive to this modest masterpiece.