Thanks to the television series Feud: Bette and Joan, a new generation is discovering the timeless films of Bette Davis and Joan Crawford. (While the pair may not have gotten along off-screen, it’s impossible to deny how electrifying they are together in Whatever Happened to Baby Jane?) So it’s only natural that the show has resulted in renewed interest in films featuring both of these iconic starlets.
One of Ms. Davis’ most underrated films, 1951’s Another Man’s Poison, has just been released in a glorious restored edition on DVD and Blu-ray. Based on the Leslie Sands play Deadlock, this noirish suspenser stars Davis as successful mystery writer Janet Frobisher. Like Jessica Fletcher in Murder, She Wrote, the author finds herself wrapped in a real-like whodunit after she receives and unannounced visit at her Yorkshire moors home from her estranged criminal husband Preston. Unlike Ms. Fletcher however, Frobisher decides to rid herself of her troublesome spouse by poisoning him. But her crime becomes complicated when her deceased hubby’s partner George (a compelling performance from Gary Merrill, re-teaming her with his All About Eve co-star) shows up looking for his cut of their bank job haul. The decided to recoup his losses by blackmailing Janet…but the wicked wordsmith has another plot twist in mind.
There’s enough twist and turns in the film to keep you guessing, and it’s always a pleasure to experience Davis chewing the scenery. Now, Voyager director Irving Rapper does a more than credible job of developing an atmosphere of menace in the film and while the film’s troubled production — including numerous rewrites — has been well documented, the finished product still has some wonderful moments and serves as an underappreciated entry in Davis’ considerable canon.