johnlink ranks PRETTY POISON (1968)

I fell for Tuesday Weld back when I saw her in THE CINCINNATI KID. I haven’t really seen her in anything else, so when this Anthony Perkins/Tuesday Weld movie came across my radar I snagged it. The premise? An ex-con draws a high schooler into his world of fantasy. Sounded unique enough to give it a run!

I watched PRETTY POISON (1968) on 4.20.12. It was my first viewing of the film.

Anthony Perkins starts off this movie by getting out of a mental institution and being put into a factory job in a small town. He meets Tuesday Weld, thinks they are being followed by agents, hands her something and tells her to meet him at the movie theater that night and sprints off, literally, across a bridge and out of frame. Just a few minutes in and this movie had me.

Most films give you the sensation that any themes or social commentaries derived from the experience do so as a byproduct of the story. PRETTY POISON is a movie which aims to make a point about society, and frames a plot around that concept. Somehow, this manages to be done in a way which does not feel heavy-handed.

So what’s the point? Perkins is the typical social outcast who has spent time in an institution. Everyone who meets him knows he is off. Weld, on the other hand, is a 17 year old who can’t wait to get out of the house. Turns out that she becomes crazier than he is. But who enables who? Do they enable each other? Are they ticking time bombs who were going to go off at some point, or was there meeting a serendipitous which allowed their individual manias to express in the way they do.

These people lie to each other. While the premise referenced above points to Perkins’ fantasy world, there is certainly doubt as to how much he believes it, and how much he uses it to get into the pants of a young girl he met and likes. Certainly there is a point at which he has allowed his CIA-operative story to go to far, but do the events snap him out of a fantasy, or does he know all along just how deceptive he is being? He uses these lies, he uses LSD, he uses guilt… he uses all these things to get in with her (and frankly, to get in her). But the question continually comes back to: Who is using who?

Weld, 25 playing 17 here, is full of sexual energy (one can’t help but feeling the LOLITA influence on this film), and she really allows her character to develop her psychosis over the course of the movie. The button on the end of this film certainly raises questions as to her intent throughout all we just saw. But like many great mysterious stories do so well, it leaves many of the questions up to the viewer to answer.

The plot has holes, and the police are pretty inept in keeping up with what is happening. Again, the character interaction trumps plot most times in this movie.

There is an unsettling and odd feeling invoked throughout this film. This movie does not feel safe, often feels subversive. It really is aesthetically unique. I’m not sure every idea is fully developed, but I sure am glad I found it. This was a movie which the studio, Fox, mostly ignored as it was being released. It has since developed a cult following. I can certainly see why.





~ by johnlink00 on April 21, 2012.

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