Thursday Editor’s Pick: Pretty Poison (1968)

by on February 3, 2012Posted in: Editor's Pick

Playing Fri Feb 3 thru Thurs Feb 9 at 1:00, 2:50, 4:40, 6:30, 8:20, 10:10 at Film Forum [Program & Tix]
*No 8:20 show on Mon, Feb 6


We here at Alt Screen are Tuesday Weld super-fans. Last year’s Weld retrospective at FSLC gave us a chance to revel in that love, and to publish Dan Callahan‘s paean to the eternal gloriousness of Tuesday.

Dan thinks Pretty Poison is Weld’s best film. Says David Thomson, “Anthony Perkins and Tuesday Weld were more subversive in Pretty Poison, and more disconcertingly confident, than Bonnie and Clyde.” And Jonathan Rosenbaum obliquely notes, “Noel Black’s odd, creepy thriller came out of nowhere in 1968…”

David Cairns advises that if anyone gets in the way of seeing this cult favorite, to “BRUSH THEM ASIDE LIKE INSECTS.”

Charles Taylor labels it an “American classic,” for the New York Times:

Dumped into theaters as an exploitation cheapie in 1968, this lyrical thriller is a minor American classic. As Dennis, a young man trying to get his feet on the ground after being released from a reformatory, Anthony Perkins, right, gives perhaps his richest performance, certainly his most touching. Just as Perkins was trying to leave behind the juvenile roles that had typecast him, Dennis, a basically decent fellow, is trying to become an adult. But even when he succeeds in hiding his past, he can’t resist playing the smart aleck or slipping into a world of make-believe. Dennis persuades the town golden girl Sue Ann (Tuesday Weld) to slip into that world with him. The twist is that she’s every bit the psychopath people assume Dennis is.


Sensitive and unsettling, ”Pretty Poison” at times suggests a smaller-scale version of ”Splendor in the Grass,” without the Freudian gush. And when violence breaks out in the suburban setting, Mr. Black plays it straight, not for cheap irony. A large part of what makes ”Pretty Poison” chilling is Ms. Weld’s amazing performance. It is no stretch to cast her as the prettiest girl in town, but resisting the urge to telegraph a character’s craziness takes real discipline. Ms. Weld pulls off the neat trick of making Sue Ann seem even more like a normal, carefree teenager after she kills. Pointing a gun, as she’s preparing to commit a murder she has long dreamed of, Ms. Weld’s smile has never been sweeter.

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Tuesday Weld at Film Society (Sep 21-25)

by on September 21, 2011Posted in: Essay

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