Directed by Noel Black (“Jennifer On My Mind”), “Pretty Poison” is a 1968 crime drama film with a comedic undertone.
The movie was based on a 1966 novel, penned by Stephen Geller, entitled “She Let Him Continue”, and concerns a disturbed young man who is released on parole from a mental institution, having being locked up for crimes committed years earlier as an arsonist.
Dennis Pitt (Anthony Perkins – “Psycho”, “Crimes Of Passion”) is that young man, and having been told by his parole officer that his flights of fantasy have no place in the real world, moves to a small town in Western Massachusetts where he starts working in a chemical factory.
He spots seventeen year old Sue Ann Stepanek (Tuesday Weld – “Looking For Mr. Goodbar”, “Once Upon A Time In America”) while she is carrying the flag for her high school marching band and is captivated by her.
Fantasising that he is a CIA agent undercover, Dennis enlists Sue Ann into a series of “missions” whilst becoming physically entangled with her too.
Mrs. Stepanek (Beverly Garland – “My Three Sons”), Sue Ann’s disapproving mother, and Dennis’ suspicious boss Bud Munsch (Dick O’Neill – “The Taking Of Pelham One Two Three”) prove to be thorns in the young couple’s side.
When one of Dennis’ missions has tragic consequences it seems almost inevitable that he will find himself under lock and key again soon, but events take an unexpected turn when Sue Ann decides that she can no longer bear her mother’s overbearing ways…
Despite being an intelligent film, with a nicely played out story and good performances from the two leads, the film was a commercial failure upon its release in 1968. Whilst not a classic of its ilk I would venture that the movie deserved better and that it is certainly worth a viewing…