A formerly institutionalized young man (Anthony Perkins) meets up with a cute, sexy high school cheerleader (Tuesday Weld) and pretends to be a CIA agent to get her interested in him while she responds to his fantasy all too willingly. This, combined with her adult craving for sensual excitement, adds up to a potentially explosive pairing indeed. And explode it does. Written by
It mixes elements of Gun Crazy with Lolita and Night of the Hunter and may have influenced Terrence Malick's Badlands and Billy Bob Thornton's Sling Blade. With this I want to say, Pretty Poison is a very American and good and memorable movie.
It has the best performance of Anthony Perkins I have ever seen. And I have seen Hitchcock's Psycho. He plays a character who, like Billy Liar, lives in a kind of a fantasy world (he is not a teenager however, but well past 30) a potential Lee Harvey Oswald, I guess. His confused state of mind is exploited by a premature, smart and amoral girl, played by Tuesday Weld who is also terrific. The world this confused character had constructed for himself and which gave him some kind of self confidence and cockiness crumbles fast and leaves him a helpless, quivering bundle.
There are some quirky details which lift the story from the ruts of formulaic story telling. The lower middle class girl drives a snazzy powder blue Triumph convertible sports car, the couple make excursions into the wilderness, the Perkins character has a nightmarish night out in hiding, with hooting owls, red lizards and headlights piercing the forest. It all has a slightly surrealistic quality which reflect the character's state of mind and gives the movie a dream like quality. The dialog is also good the best scene for me was Perkin's phone call to the local sheriff in order to report a murder. Check it out.
In the final scene the girl meets a new boyfriend. I bet this is young Joe Pesci, but he is not in the credits. - Thanks to the IMDb message board I know now that I would have lost the bet. Still, it's a pleasant and exciting discovery.
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