One cold and dampy night, a strange man, George Bates (Gary Merrill, All About Eve), appears on the doorsteps of a famous mystery writer, Janet Frobisher (Bette Davis), who lives alone in the English countryside. The stranger is on the run from the police after robbing a bank with the help of Janet’s estranged husband. But the fugitive slowly realizes that Janet is harboring a dark secret…
Reaction & Thoughts:
“… the night air teems with unexpected guests.”
Stagey, sluggish, high-pitched British muder-mystery is made palatable thanks to some fine performances. Another Man’s Poison is essentially a B-movie infused with a heavy dose of star power — Bette Davis’s titanic energy often makes you forget that the whole thing makes little sense.
Directed by Irving Rapper (Now, Voyager and The Corn is Green) from a screenplay by Val Guest (The Day the Earth Caught Fire) based on Leslie Sands’s 1948 play Deadlock, Another Man’s Poison is preposterous and far-fetched. I just didn’t buy into the premise of the film. And some scenes are unintentionally funny.
Davis and then husband Gary Merrill make, however, a fine pair of sociopaths, and their mind games are fun to watch. Emlyn Williams, an actor and dramatist better known for his plays Night Must Fall and The Corn is Green (Davis starred, of course, in the 1945 film adaptation), offers fine support as a nosey neighbor.
In his autobiography Bette, Rita and the Rest of My Life, actor Merrill insisted that the film’s producers — Daniel M. Angel and actor Douglas Fairbanks Jr. (Sinbad the Sailor) — wanted Davis so badly for the film that they “offered her near the whole world.” Although she didn’t like the script, Davis was (finally) persuaded to do the movie when Merrill was given the male lead in the movie.
Because Davis, Merrill and director Rapper were unhappy with the script, playwright Williams was asked to rewrite many scenes. The movie does have a few good moments, and I’m inclined to believe that these tidbits of excellence were the direct result of Williams’s last-minute work. Unfortunately, as the old saying goes, “there’s not nearly enough flour for a cake here” — Guest’s script was broken beyond repair.
Conclusions & Final Thoughts:
Another Man’s Poison is not a bad movie; it’s just a bit too hysterical for my taste. I enjoyed the performances, but the movie intermittently slips into camp territory. This kind of stuff was done much better in films like Sleuth (1972) and Deathtrap (1982). The film was shot by Oscar-winning cinematographer Robert Krasker’s (Odd Man Out and The Third Man). B&W, 90 minutes, Not Rated.