A Look Back At An Effective Thriller Filmed In The Berkshires
In previous posts, we focused on a number of major motion pictures that were made throughout the beautiful Berkshires. In particular, we focus on a 20th Century Fox release that was filmed back in 1968 throughout the town of Great Barrington, Massachusetts, which achieved cult status throughout the decades amongst it's followers and fans.
The movie we are focusing on in this article is "Pretty Poison" that co-starred Anthony Perkins (best known as Norman Bates in the Alfred Hitchcock classic "Psycho") The lovely Tuesday Weld, Beverly Garland, John Randolph and Dick O'Neill. Ken Kercheval (aka Cliff Barnes on the CBS-TV series "Dallas"): also had a supporting role in this picture.
Behind the scenes, Noel Black called the shots behind the camera, Lawrence Turman served as the movie's producer and Lorenzo Semple Jr. (He was instrumental in bringing us our favorite Caped Crusader "Batman" on prime time TV) provided the screenplay. The music was composed by Johnny Mandel, whose work was prevalent in the M*A*S*H TV series).
Pretty Poison was based on a 1966 Stephen Geller novel entitled "She Let Him Continue" as the title was changed to show more effectiveness and would provide a better impact to it's audience. The film was well-received by well-known critics including Rex Reed, The New Yorker magazine's Pauline Kael and Gene Siskel from The Chicago Tribune newspaper who rated it as one of the 10 BEST movies released in 1968. New York City based daily newspapers panned the film due to it's sensitive content, however it resonated well with audiences due to a curiosity factor that demanded their attendance.
I remember seeing this movie during my youth at The legendary RKO Coliseum Theater in my old neighborhood of Washington Heights but because of my age, it was a little difficult to comprehend. It was later, I digested the full impact on this edge of your seat classic. The MPAA (Motion Picture Association of America) gave "Pretty Poison" an R rating (Restricted as this film was tailored for adults and those 17 and under were only admitted with a parent or legal guardian due to some of it's violent and disturbing content).
The plot focuses on an ex-convict (Perkins) meeting up with a teenage high school cheerleader (Weld) as they embark on a series of "missions" which result in a spree of violent murders (if you plan to revisit this movie or you haven't yet seen it, I won't give out further details. Trust me, this movie will keep you on the edge of your seat as the director brings us some twists and turns of the unexpected nature).
Shooting this film in the Berkshires was turbulent in nature as Weld called this project "the worst she ever made in her career" while Garland enjoyed playing the part of Tuesday's austere and demanding mother. Black called Perkins' participation in this picture as "model and professional" in nature which led to the film's success.
Bottom line: Maybe you remember those days when Great Barrington had a "Hollywood-like" atmosphere as we would like you to comment on your recollections and memories via this article or on social media. By all means, it's an enjoyable "blast from the past" and we hope to see many more of these projects on the horizon as they truly will provide a boost to our local economy during these trying times.
("Pretty Poison" poster courtesy of 20th Century Fox studios. Some background on the article was obtained courtesy of Wikipedia)
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