Pretty Poison Reviews
Oddball stuff, worth a rental if you like the leads.
Perhaps what I like most about this film is that nothing is what it seems. One could be forgiven for believing the opening act was part of a badly-written comedy, probably because that is exactly what the writer wants you to think. Lorenzo Semple's tight script is slyly subversive both in its deceptively light treatment and in the manner in which it portrays small-town Americana (in much the same way that David Lynch would two decades later in Blue Velvet). He tells us that the white picket fences and pretty cheerleaders should never be taken at face value, because there is something rotten lurking beneath that all-American veneer -- but in true cult fashion, it has fun with that message, instead of taking itself too seriously.
I'd be remiss if I didn't mention the performances. Perkins (as usual) is terrific. You can see the layers of confidence slowly peeling away as his and Sue-Ann's roles become inexplicably reversed and he finds himself sinking deeper and deeper out of his depth until he is a mass of sweaty, twitching nerves, blindly following orders, all pretence of control abandoned. Weld is also first class. She plays her character the same throughout, even when her true colors are revealed to us, and resists the temptation to display the usual tics and grimaces of movie-land's bunny-boilers. And lest I forget, Beverly Garland, the quintessential B-movie actress of her day, who also turns in the best performance of her career as the mother everyone can hate.
All in all, it's a crime that Pretty Poison is so unknown. Now that it FINALLY got released on DVD, let's hope more people discover it.