Thursday, September 29, 2005

Pretty Poison (1968)

Muddled black comedy shows early promise that it can't fulfill. The main problem, far as I can tell, is the bizarre tonal stagnancy that afflicts the film. It seems that director Noel Black was unable to keep up with the script's radical shifts, so that by the time he settles on the proper tone the film's moved on to something different. He remains a step behind to the bitter end -- a man chasing his own material. Much of it, subsequently, comes off as silly and slapdash. Given how the film ends, a case could be made that this is by design, but someone other than me is going to have to mount that defense. Tuesday Weld, at least, manages to get into the spirit of things. Her carefree, spirited performance is the only thing that keeps this from sinking into a quagmire of contrivance. (Anthony Perkins, on the other hand, spends much of his screentime on autopilot.) There's some mordantly funny bits (notably an encounter with a night watchman), but generally this tries so hard to be offbeat that it falls, well, off the beat. It's an unsuccessful curio.

Grade: C+


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