The Horror Honeys: Illusions Can Be Deadly...

Illusions Can Be Deadly...

A Revenge Honey Classic Review

Pretty Poison (1968)

Sometimes I think I was born in the wrong decade. No matter how many modern horror movies I watch, I rarely see one that can creep me out as much as the classics from the 50s and 60s. The films that came out during those years may not have been as gory or obvious, but they were twice as scary because they knew how to deliver on tension and terror. The best part was, in a lot of these films, women got to be serious badasses. So for my review this week, I’m sharing with you one of my favorite lesser-seen movies; a film for those who thought Sissy Spacek was a little too easy-going in Badlands.

Pretty Poison (1968), directed by Noel Black, stars Anthony Perkins (awesome) as Dennis and Tuesday Weld (even more awesome) as Sue Ann, and tells the story of mentally disturbed former psychiatric patient that believes he is a spy for the CIA, who upon being released meets a sociopathic high school cheerleader with a bloodlust that would make Hannibal Lecter shake in his muzzle (the absolutely awesome-est.) When the film begins, the viewer is lead to believe that Anthony Perkins is going to corrupt this sweet, innocent little girl with his stories of high intrigue and creepy “Coming Mother!” vibe. But like all great twisty revenge stories, the deceptively spritely Weld is using Perkins for her own fun. I won’t reveal more because that would ruin this gem for those of you unlucky enough not to have seen it yet. 

What I love most about this movie is that it doesn’t just turn the tables on the classic Bonnie and Clyde dynamic; it completely renders it obsolete. Instead of a Charles Starkweather and Caril-Ann Fugate situation (as was dramatized in Badlands), we get a manipulative young girl totally taking advantage of a mentally unstable man who can’t differentiate fact from fiction. Sue Ann plays nice to get exactly what she wants, and when she stops getting it, woe be unto those who stand in her way. Even for 1968, this kind of feminine power was pretty revolutionary (sadistic, yes, but revolutionary.) 

Tuesday Weld has always maintained that she hated her performance in this film but it’s really hard to understand why. It’s fairly well known Hollywood lore that Weld and director Noel Black despised each other, and I can only believe that she is transposing her feelings for the director with her performance in the film. As classic femme fatales go, Sue Ann Stepanek is easily one of the most terrifying and cheerful murderesses in the history of horror cinema.  To watch Tuesday Weld wield a gun and litter a body with bullets is to experience a terror and fascination that no other woman would really convey until Juliette Lewis in Natural Born Killers.

The point of all this is, Pretty Poison is a fucking killer movie. If you haven’t seen it, find it. I can guarantee that it will quickly become one of your favorites. Plus, if I haven’t already managed to convince you, see it because it’s one of the few Anthony Perkins films where he ISN’T the total wacko. Mama Bates would be proud.

Revenge Honey Stabby Points: 4 out of 5