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Tuesday, September 15, 2009

PRETTY POISON (1968)


Anthony Perkins gives one of his best post-PSYCHO/’60 perfs as a paroled felon with lingering mental problems who finds relief from his mind-numbing factory job (and his violent past) by indulging in a dangerously active fantasy life. He meets cute/impressionable/underage Tuesday Weld and finds a romantic partner willing to play along with his fictionally constructed secret life as a CIA agent. (Just how much of this fantasy she believes is open to question.) At first, Lorenzo Semple’s script plays like an off-kilter WALTER MITTY tale or perhaps an Americanized BILLY LIAR, where doses of illusion help to break the monotony of an average life. But the story swerves into darker territories as nihilistic actions allow Weld to force Perkins into dramatic corners he either can’t or doesn’t wish to get out of. The film just gets weirder and better as it goes along, even if the brief visual feints toward New Wave editing from megger Noel Black don’t quite come off. He’d soon settle into routine tv work. But the film deserves its growing cult following as does that cute blue Sunbeam that Tuesday Weld gets to drive. Yum, what a sweet car!

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