Monday, June 22, 2009

PRETTY POISON (1968) - Noel Black

It may have been Father's Day not Valentine's Day, but this weekend was all about killer couples on the run.

First up was this under-appreciated Anthony Perkins gem about a potentially disturbed young man fresh from the institution and a shady arson-related past who sets his skewed sights on virginal high school honors student Tuesday Weld. Perkins woos Wells by making her think he's a secret agent for the CIA and enlists her in a series of romantic interludes half-disguised as covert operations involving a chemical factory he believes to be at the head of a shady global pollution conspiracy. But when Perkins discovers that Wells is more than ready and willing to do some black-op dirty work that even he was not prepared to do, things get complicated-- the original Psycho starts to realize he may be out-Psycho'ed.

I heard bits and pieces about this movie over the years, but I'm surprised I hadn't heard more. As far as whacked-out killer couples go, this is one of the best. The script by Lorenzo Semple, Jr. (Three Days of the Condor, Parallax View, Flash Gordon!) is rock solid and still manages to surprise even some twist-weary 40 years later. Perkins toys very effectively with his post-Psycho Norman Bates iconography, and Tuesday Wells is a revelation as an absolutely cold blooded teeny bopping blank slate. The only argument might be that the direction is a little pedestrian, but the lurid vibe and tasty storytelling courtesy of Semple Jr. and the two leads more than make up for that.

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