The revival of a new 35 mm print of Noel Black's Pretty Poison at Cinefamily should get extra creepy-realness points for the fact that the button-down oxford/proto-hoodie combos and cute, patterned dresses worn by stars Anthony Perkins and Tuesday Weld, respectively, likely will bear a disconcerting resemblance to the clothes worn by a couple sitting near you.
In this 1968 rediscovery, Perkins plays a young man newly released from a juvenile detention facility, who crosses paths with Weld's small-town honor student. Their immediate chemistry combusts into nothing but trouble, young love twisting toward folie à deux madness, and murder. The filmmakers seem aware of the previous year's Bonnie and Clyde — the couple rendezvous in a movie theater showing a period gangster shoot-out — as if Black and screenwriter Lorenzo Semple Jr. are playing with that film's nostalgic idealization of hip, us-against-the-world lovers in Pretty Poison's present tense.
Director Black made his feature debut with the film — he would go on to work mostly in television, though he did also make the Phoebe Cates/Matthew Modine '80s sex comedy, Private School — and here he keeps the mood teasingly opaque, a touch strange. Perkins does a variation on his nervy über-normal routine, but it's Weld who really drives the film along, her quicksilver intelligence catching off-guard people who more immediately respond to her astonishingly beautiful face and figure. Between the two of them, exactly who is pushing whom turns over more than once — in modern parlance, they're enabling one another.
The film is seductive and unnerving at the same time, exploring the truism that once you pull the lid off crazy, it never does go back on quite right. —Mark Olsen
PRETTY POISON | April 6-12 | Cinefamily at the Silent Movie Theatre | cinefamily.org
Scores provided by Rotten Tomatoes