Another Man’s Poison is a deliciously overheated 1951 British crime melodrama with Bette Davis delivering one of the most outrageously over-the-top performances in a career studded with over-the-top performances.
Davis plays Janet Frobisher, a successful crime thriller writer who lives in a slightly gothic old house in Tarnmoor, a small village on the Yorkshire Moors. Her peaceful existence is interrupted by the arrival of George Bates (Gary Merrill). Bates wants to see Janet’s husband and he wants to see him urgently. Janet is estranged from her husband but Bates knows he has been there recently. He knows this because he and her husband have just robbed a bank together. A policeman was shot during the robbery so Bates is a man in a great deal of trouble. He claims that Janet’s husband did the shooting but the police think Bates did it.
Janet explains that her husband can’t see him at the moment on account of being dead, Janet having killed him that morning.
There are a few complications. Janet doesn’t want a husband, alive or dead. She certainly doesn’t want George Bates as a husband. And George seems to be taking the posing-as-married thing a bit too seriously. He seems to be falling in love with her. That’s inconvenient since Janet is busy trying to carry on her affair with Larry Stevens (Anthony Steel). Larry is engages to Janet’s secretary Chris Dale (Barbara Murray),which is another complication.
As you can see there’s plenty of potential for steamy melodrama here and that’s exactly what this movie delivers. The plot twists are sometimes a little predictable but in some ways that’s a plus - it adds to the fun when you can see each catastrophe coming. Catastrophes there are in plenty. George’s ingenious plan is the match that sets light to the powderkeg that has been building up as a result of Janet’s manipulativeness and possessiveness.
Gary Merrill and Emlyn Williams provide good support. Merrill holds his own surprisingly well even when Davis is in full flight.
While the story may not hold many surprises it’s the execution that matters and the execution is so manic that you don’t have time to notice the gaping plot holes. Gaping plot holes such as expecting us to believe that there’s not a single solitary soul who has ever set eyes on Janet’s real husband. Or that a bank robber can disappear from view merely by pretending to be someone’s husband even though his photograph has been plastered on the front page of every newspaper in the country. And my favourite - a major plot point is that the most incriminating piece of evidence against George is the fingerprints on the gun used in the robbery, even though George has the gun in his possession and could easily just rub the damned fingerprints off!
Simply Media’s Region 2 DVD is barebones but the transfer is a very good one.
This is a movie that makes no sense at all but with Bette Davis in this sort of form that doesn’t matter in the slightest. Another Man’s Poison is a high camp extravaganza that will delight any Davis fan. Forget about logic and just sit back and enjoy the ride. Highly recommended.