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The Young Poisoner's Handbook (1995)

This film is based on a true story about a British teenager who allegedly poisoned family, friends, and co-workers. Graham is highly intelligent, but completely amoral. He becomes ... See full summary »


Benjamin Ross
1 win & 2 nominations. See more awards »




Cast overview, first billed only:
Tobias Arnold Tobias Arnold ... Young Graham
Ruth Sheen ... Molly
Roger Lloyd Pack ... Fred
Hugh O'Conor ... Graham Young
Norman Caro Norman Caro ... Mr. Goez
Dorothea Alexander Dorothea Alexander ... Mrs. Goez
Charlotte Coleman ... Winnie
Paul Stacey Paul Stacey ... Dennis
Samantha Edmonds Samantha Edmonds ... Sue
Robert Demeger Robert Demeger ... Mr. Dexter
Jack Deam ... Mick
Peter Pacey ... Dickie Boone
Joost Siedhoff Joost Siedhoff ... Dr. Scott
Vilma Hollingbery Vilma Hollingbery ... Aunty Panty
Frank Mills ... Uncle Jack


This film is based on a true story about a British teenager who allegedly poisoned family, friends, and co-workers. Graham is highly intelligent, but completely amoral. He becomes interested in science, especially chemistry, and begins to read avidly. Something of a social misfit, he is fascinated by morbid subjects such as poisons and murder. His family environment is intolerable to him and, in particular, his stepmother torments him. He decides to poison those who annoy him, first with antimony and later with thallium. He smugly thinks himself cleverer than all those around him, but nevertheless he is caught and sentenced to 'rehabilitation' at a psychiatric institution. Once there, he undertakes to deceive the new eminent psychiatrist sent there to 'cure' him, thereby securing his release. Written by Tad Dibbern <DIBBERN_D@a1.mscf.upenn.edu>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


Meet Graham. He's not your ordinary teenager. See more »


Crime | Drama

Motion Picture Rating (MPAA)

Rated R for murders by poisoning, language and some nude photos | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

View content advisory »

Did You Know?


The film was not screened at many local cinemas, due to the tone of the film, and out of respect for the surviving victims, and the relatives of the dead. See more »


When Dr. Zeigler visits the institution for mentally unstable criminals in which Graham is hospitalized, the director of the institution says, referred to another patient: "Vulpes pilum mutat, non mores", saying it means "The leopard never changes his spots". Graham corrects him, saying it means instead: "The wolf changes its fur, but not its nature". Actually, "vulpes" means "fox". See more »


Molly: He's my little Louis Pasteur.
See more »


References A Clockwork Orange (1971) See more »


Written by Peter De Angelis and Robert P. Marcucci
Performed by Anthony Newley
See more »

User Reviews

Dark and amusing but not to all tastes
3 May 2003 | by bob the mooSee all my reviews

As a boy, Graham was always keen on chemistry. When he is introduced to a deadly chemical he begins to conduct experiments on his cruel family – namely by slowly poisoning his mother. Shortly after her death Graham is caught for her murder and sentenced to a mental institution. With help and treatment from a physiatrist, Graham is rehabilitated and released into the community. But can his love of poison be controlled?

I first saw this in the cinema many years ago and held off writing a review because I wanted to be sure that I could give it a fair review – memory not that great you know. So I watched it on channel 4 last week and was quite taken aback – I didn't remember it being quite that dark and disturbed. The plot is quite like Kind Hearts & Coronets in the set up and delivery (more in the delivery) but is a lot darker and more cruel than that classic. The comedy is of the very dark type and mostly comes from Graham's narration. His narration plays his acceptance of very shocking events as run-of-the-mill things that happen in the background, this juxtaposition works well and makes it funny.

The actual poisonings are not always easy to laugh through, while some of his mother's ordeal is played for laughs, most of it is quite cruel and upsetting. I think it worked well for playing the audience on the fact that we didn't quite know what this was – it was based on a true story yet was played for laughs as well as serious at times. However this same ploy is to it's weakness as it is difficult to settle into for this same reason. The director seems very assured and handles this better, mixing inappropriate music with the action as well as directing it very flat and clinically.

O'Conor is the perfect choice for the role. Onscreen he is cold and cruel but it is his narration is where he excels – delivering perfectly deadpan lines. The support cast are all OK but mostly play exaggerated characters on the whole – British stereotypes and such. The film wisely leaves them as undeveloped this because if we cared too much for them or related to them then it would have been impossible to feel anything but revulsion for Graham. As cardboard cutouts they seem less than Graham in terms of the film (wonder how the real victims' families felt about this view).

Overall this is a strange film but one that has enough going for it to be worht watching. However it should be noted that it is quite cruel and upsetting – we are not allowed to feel anything for Graham's victims. The humour is rarely laugh out loud funny and this will probably only be for those who like their comedy very dark.

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Release Date:

23 February 1996 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

The Young Poisoner's Handbook See more »


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Technical Specs


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Color (Metrocolor)

Aspect Ratio:

1.66 : 1
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