Archive of films Pretty Poison / Pretty Poison

1968, 89 min

Section: New Hollywood II
Year: 2008

In this critically acclaimed and gloomy cult romance, thirty-something Dennis (an outstanding Anthony Perkins) has just been released from a psychiatric ward after a history of arson. In an idyllic small-town setting he meets a jejune high schooler by the name of Sue Ann for whom he pretends to be a CIA agent. The lovers get involved in a dangerous game with tragic consequences.


In October of 1968, squeezed in between the years of two emblematic films of new Hollywood, Bonnie and Clyde and Easy Rider, a psychological drama with elements of black comedy was released for its short distribution career - Pretty Poison. Anthony Perkins (Psycho) portrays an eccentric thirty-something named Dennis who has spent half his life in a psychiatric ward due to an act of arson that had tragic consequences. He starts over in a Massachusetts town where the eternal dreamer passes himself off as a CIA agent in order to wow an innocent high school adolescent named Sue Ann (Tuesday Weld). Under the influence of Dennis’ tall tales, the lovers set out on a dangerous undertaking on the edge of the law that culminates in a shocking discovery. This unfairly neglected film with a cult following of its own about the ill-fated intersection of two pathological minds, owes its impressiveness not only to the outstanding performances but particularly to Lorenzo Semple Jr.’s brilliant screenplay, which was acclaimed by New York critics. The grim romance offers a sophisticated mix of genres, enriched by noir elements and refined irony, set in the seemingly idyllic reality of small-town America.

About the director

Noel Black (b. 1937, Chicago) graduated from the University of California, Los Angeles. In 1965 he received the Palme d’Or at the Cannes Film Festival for his short film Skaterdater. Three years later he made his feature film debut Pretty Poison, based on Stephen Geller’s novel She Let Him Continue. After the relative failure of his next two film projects - Cover Me Babe (1970) and Jennifer on My Mind (1971) - Black went back into television where he had originally begun. His greatest accomplishments in this medium have included I’m a Fool (with Ron Howard and Amy Irving) and The Electric Grandmother, an adaptation of a story by Ray Bradbury with Maureen Stapleton in the title role. A Man, a Woman and a Bank is a cops-and-robbers comedy starring Donald Sutherland. In 1985, Mel Damski filmed the romantic comedy Mischief, based on Noel Black’s screenplay.


Hollywood Classics
Suite 31, Beaufort Court, Admirals Way, E14 9XL, London
United Kingdom
Tel: +44 207 517 7525

About the film

Color, 35 mm

Section: New Hollywood II
Director: Noel Black
Screenplay: Lorenzo Semple Jr. podle románu / based on the novel She Let Him Continue by Stephen Heller
Dir. of Photography: David Quaid
Music: Johnny Mandel
Editor: William Ziegler
Producer: Marshall Backlar
Production: 20th Century Fox
Cast: Anthony Perkins, Tuesday Weld, John Randolph, Beverly Garland
Contact: Hollywood Classics


Geraldine Higgins

Lorenzo Semple Jr.


Melanie Tebb

Sales Agent


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