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Pretty Poison. (1968).

October 5, 2007

The Scoop:
Those who don’t know Anthony Perkins as anything but Norman Bates in “Psycho” owe it to themselves to hunt down this hard-to-find film.

In this low-key black comedy, Perkins is a pathologically lying arsonist, newly paroled from the mental hospital, who convinces a naive teenage girl (Tuesday Weld) that he’s really a secret agent. The trouble is, she may just be crazier than he is, and things quickly get out of his control.

Noel Black’s direction and Lorenzo Semple Jr.’s script (based on the Stephen Geller novel) are incisive and full of dry wit. Weld gets a chance to tear it up, playing against her squeaky-clean Disney image. And, in many ways, Perkins plays a fun variation on the character he created in “Psycho.” In fact, the dumping-the-body sequence in “Pretty Poison” is a pretty sly tweak on the similar sequence in the earlier film.

An obscure gem. Unfortunately, it was horribly difficult to find for decades — only a meager theatrical run, few TV or revival house showings, and absolutely no video release. (In fact, the copy I first saw of this years ago was a VHS dub of a late night showing from the early, early days of AMC, which found its way into my hands through a really complicated set of circumstances.) Thankfully, 20th Century Fox has finally seen fit to give it a full DVD release, so there’s no longer any excuse not to pick this up at your local entertainment peddler’s establishment.

Best Line:
“I used to practice unlicensed tree surgery. It seems I once performed an unnecessary abortion on a peach tree.”

Side Note:
The film being shown in the movie theater scene is the Roger Corman quickie “St. Valentine’s Day Massacre” (1967).

Companion Viewing:
“Heathers” (1988) and “Natural Born Killers” (1995).


Take a Look:
This scene probably isn’t the best example of the mood of the whole film, but it’s entertaining nonetheless:

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