“I had hoped to be appointed to the first Venus rocket.”

“I once foolishly performed an abortion on a peach tree.”

Boy, PRETTY POISON, that’s some film. You should definitely rush out and get ahold of a copy, definitely. If anybody gets in your way, BRUSH THEM ASIDE LIKE INSECTS.

Well, it shouldn’t be necessary to go that far, it’s just my gentle way of suggesting you should bump it to the top of your rental lists, that’s all. Good to see it without knowing TOO much about it, so you’ll just have to trust me. I think I can tell you that –

1) Anthony Perkins is released into the community after a long time in an institution. But this is not Richard Franklin’s PSYCHO II.

2) He begins a relationship with high-school girl Tuesday Weld. But this is certainly not LORD LOVE A DUCK.

3) Said relationship gets… complicated. But this is not ANYTHING ELSE.

Dan Sallitt has more to say HERE. It’s spoilerific but seriously worth reading once you’ve seen the film. Or you can do as I did: read the post, forget most of the plot points over the course of a year, then see the film and have it be a lovely surprise. But that’s kind of time-consuming.

Noel Black, far from prolific but clearly rather interesting, directs. The years after the decline of the studio system and before the “new Hollywood” seem peppered with misshapen gems like this. Lorenzo Semple scripts, and it shows another side to him from the campy Batman show and FLASH GORDON script. I love both those things, but the slide from quirky screwball to noir here prefigures Jonathan Demme’s SOMETHING WILD (my fave Demme?) and is probably more deep, dark and interesting. Anyway, Demme’s is the only other film I can think of that achieves this exact genre-shift (although Nicholas Ray’s IN A LONELY PLACE actually kind of touches on comedy to begin with before heading for the shocking dark) and they’d certainly go great together.

Like Tony Perkins and Tuesday Weld! They have chemistry! Fiona observed this, and I agree: they’re very different players in every respect, but both good and seemingly instinctive and they pay keen attention to each other. Their reactions to each other are so genuine we have to believe they’re into each other.

Fiona rated Tony’s pick-up line as the best ever. Accosting Tues in a phone booth: “Don’t say a word act perfectly natural we’re under surveillance. Rendezvous tonight bring this object. Spring Street movie house eight p.m. seventh row balcony left side aisle got that? Make your phone call don’t look after me.” And with that he is off.

“You WOULD go,” asserted Fiona.


11 Responses to ““I had hoped to be appointed to the first Venus rocket.””

  1. They’re “into each other” in the way that certain gay men and straight women sometimes connect. In this case they’re Will & Grace on Mars.

    In Play It As It Lays (Frank Perry’s very underrated film of Joan Didion’s seminal L.A. novel) they’re reunited. In the lovely climax Tony takes on overdoes of sleeping pills and dies in Tuesday’s arms as she sings “You Belong to Me.”

  2. I just got Perry’s Ladybird Ladybird recently and am looking forward to a viewing. He seems quite an appealing filmmaker.

  3. K. Connolly Says:

    Wouldn’t you say Perkins is underrated, generally? Will they ever release a DVD of Remember My Name? And Weld, for that matter. There’s something Twin Peaksy about this film as well I can’t get my hands on. And Gun Crazy, and Suddenly Last Summer and even In Cold Blood. The sudden random intoxication with another human being deadly. And Perkins understood that, even in crappier roles, as interesting in a way that had legs.

  4. Certainly Perkins did far more than Psycho, and that’s not widely appreciated enough. I think he’s a fascinating actor, some of which is to do with a real-life psychological discomfort that emerges onscreen. I can’t think of a role where he’s not interestingly neurotic, and suspect that if he was cast in such a role he would MAKE it interestingly neurotic.

    Interesting grouping of films, although I never figured Twin Peaks as being specifically about an amour fou. But those movies do share moments of feverish intensity alright.

  5. K. Connolly Says:

    I meant Twin Peaksy in the setting probably and sometimes the mannered acting style, which is deliberate in both cases, I think.

    Mind you, in Twin Peaks the entire town is in love with Laura Palmer (and like in all Lynch, in love with love), and that doesn’t end so well either.

    Perkins got typecast, of course, by Psycho, anyone that good in that part would have, but I don’t understand why he was constantly pushed in the direction of camp in later years. Sure, we all have bills to pay, but you’d think a smart director or two would have thrown him a bone here and there.

  6. Perkins had a few good roles in the 60s and 70s but certainly things dried up in the last decade or so. Low-budget exploitation cinema in that period wasn’t too inspiring generally, for some reason.

  7. I just watched this last night, and loved it. I think it’s the only Perkins I’ve seen other than ‘Psycho’, but he was wonderfully charismatic. I think I might just base my future film watching on things from SHADOWPLAY that sound interesting. Have also just got LADYBUG LADYBUG, which is next to be watched.

  8. And that surprisingly, uncomfortably erotic scene where Weld bounces around with the dead/drowning security guard’s head trapped between her legs underwater, while assuring Perkins that everything’s fine! Blimey!

  9. ” I think I might just base my future film watching on things from SHADOWPLAY that sound interesting.”

    Hey, it’s a system!

    I got Ladybug Ladybug ages ago and have STILL to watch it.

    I like Perkins a lot. I like him best before he had to send himself up for a living, but I still like him even then, especially in Crimes of Passion. Love him as Josef K in Welles’s The Trial.

  10. Don’t let’s forget that it also includes the much-to-be-missed Beverly Garland.

  11. She’s superb in it. The whole film is so beautifully balanced, I kept waiting for it to tip over or mess up. It never puts a foot wrong.

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