PRETTY POISON (1968, directed by Noel Black) is a quirky little film based on Stephen Geller's 1966 noir-ish novel She Let Him Continue.One part thriller, one part black comedy, Anthony Perkins stars as a mentally unstable ex-con who meets up with a seemingly innocent high school knockout (the wonderful and highly-watchable Tuesday Weld)—and soon the two are a lethal combination.Perkins plays the easygoing, but slightly psycho Dennis Pitt, who is on parole from a mental institution and working at a chemical factory in sleepy, working-class New England town. As sage advice, his parole officer (John Randolph) warns him that “the world has no place for fantasies.”. He soon becomes enamored with Weld's sexy, precocious drum-majorette Sue Ann Stepenek after seeing her perform with the local high school marching band.
Rather than reveal that he is a nerdy arsonist (who trots around town rather than drive) who killed his own aunt in a fire he started, Dennis tells kittenish Sue Ann that he is a CIA agent, and playfully concocts all sorts of tales of espionage. The two begin a torrid romance, and frequent the local makeout area. The age-inappropriate relationship is not looked upon kindly by Sue Ann's domineering mother (expertly played by the late, great Beverly Garland).SPOILERS begin here: A plot to explode an bridge and dump bright red (pretty) poison into the local water supply turns even uglier when Sue Ann decides to kill the sweet old night watchman by clobbering him with an enormous wrench and then rolling his body down to the lake and sitting on him until he drowns. Oh yeah, she steals his gun too! Dennis begins to feel guilty what has transpired, but Sue Ann is turns out to be quite the thrill killer and wants to continue the crime spree- culminating with Dennis marrying her and taking her to "the bay of Mexico" to live.
The only person standing in their way is her nagging and disapproving mother. So, with the help of the night watch man's gun, Sue Ann says goodbye to her. The twist is that Sue Ann has now become more diabolical than Dennis ever was.Dennis, realizing that Sue Ann is psycho turns himself in to the local authorities and takes full blame for their crimes. Sue Ann instantly and gleefully betrays him and he is sent to prison.The film ends with Sue Ann meeting another handsome young man and complaining to him that the people who she lives with won't let her stay out late, implying that she will use this new stranger to her best advantage. Pretty poison indeed.
A fun, if a bit slow-moving romp with an addictive performance by Weld. Perkins is his usual reliable, nutty self and Garland, like a said earlier, is a hoot. Some great color choices and unusual shots also add to the stylish look. I give this one a 9 outta 10. See it!
For a fun and stylish blog inspired by the quirky, legendary Hollywood bad girl Tuesday Weld - go here.