directed by Benjamin Ross
UK 1995

 

The Young Poisoner's Handbook is a debut of rare polish and command by Benjamin Ross, who uses the real-life crimes of Bovingdon serial poisoner Graham Young as a means of satirizing working-class suburban England and the changes it underwent between the conservative early '60s and the psychedelic early '70s. Meanwhile, Ross pays homage to the respective spirits of Hitchcock, Ealing, and Kubrick, and the film's three-part structure, its incorporation of Purcell's Funeral Music for Queen Mary into its score, and its ultimate emphasis on the futility of redemptive measures on the sociopathic mind seem intended to draw immediate association with A Clockwork Orange.

Hugh O'Conor (of My Left Foot) stars as Young, with Ruth Sheen (the distinctive player from the films of Mike Leigh) as his sexually repressive stepmother and the late Charlotte Coleman as his bitchy, snooping sister Winnie. Early scenes depict the Young family's banal existence, played out largely in front of sappy variety programs on the tube, while adolescent Graham stays holed up in his room using his parents' best china to mix substances obtained from the local chemist. Ever the proper scientist, Graham remains wholly objective as he observes his stepmother's slow deterioration from heavy metal poisoning perpetrated by him, the ill effects of which he meticulously documents in the notebook given to him as a gift by his chemist.

O'Conor's performance is spot-on, and his clinical narration sidesteps any discussion of morality as Graham feigns concern while eavesdropping on visiting doctors from the shadows of his parents' gloomy townhouse. Many of the pleasures of The Young Poisoner's Handbook, which is a wildly entertaining movie, derive from the remarkably fluid narrative pace and the deliciously observed details, which contrast the self-important grandeur of Graham Young's genocidal ambitions with the unglamorous pettiness of the Young family and the Bovingdon environment to which his crimes were, fortunately, limited (the real Graham Young had wanted to be known as "The World's Poisoner," but the media instead gave him the considerably less flattering moniker "The Teacup Poisoner"). Elements of horror and absurdist humor are carefully judged and well-balanced, shaping this movie into the ideal model of the very black comedy.

Portions of this review are reproduced from the author's IMDb comment located HERE.


Posters

Theatrical Release: February 23. 1996 (United States)

Reviews    More Reviews  DVD Reviews

DVD Comparison:

Echo Bridge Home Entertainment (né Platinum Disc Corp.) - Region 1 - NTSC vs. Atlantic Film AB - Region 2 - PAL

Big thanks to Paul Haynes for the Echo Bridge Home Entertainment (né Platinum Disc Corp.) Screen Caps!

(Echo Bridge Home Entertainment (né Platinum Disc Corp.) - Region 1 - NTSC - LEFT vs. Atlantic Film AB - Region 2 - PAL - RIGHT)

DVD Box Covers

Distribution

Echo Bridge Home Entertainment (né Platinum Disc Corp.)

Region 1 - NTSC

Atlantic Film AB
Region 2 - PAL
Runtime 1.39:15 1:35:03 (4% PAL speedup)
Video

1.33:1 Aspect Ratio
Average Bitrate: 5.43 mb/s
NTSC 720x480 29.97 f/s

1.77:1 Aspect Ratio

16X9 enhanced
Average Bitrate: 5.76 mb/s
PAL 720x576 25.00 f/s

NOTE: The Vertical axis represents the bits transferred per second. The Horizontal is the time in minutes.

Bitrate:

 

Echo Bridge Home Entertainment (né Platinum Disc Corp.)

 

Bitrate:

 

Atlantic Film AB

 

Audio English (Dolby Digital 2.0)

English (Dolby Digital 2.0)

Subtitles None Danish, Finnish, Swedish, Norwegian, None
Features Release Information:
Studio: Echo Bridge Home Entertainment (né Platinum Disc Corp.)

Aspect Ratio:
Fullscreen - 1.33:1

Edition Details:
• Chapter selection

DVD Release Date: April 5, 2005
Keep Case

Chapters 12

Release Information:
Studio: Atlantic Film AB

Aspect Ratio:
Widescreen anamorphic - 1.77:1

Edition Details:
• Theatrical trailers (The Young Poisoner's Handbook, Of Love and Shadows, Blue Juice
• Cast & Crew filmographies
• Chapter selection

 

DVD Release Date: June 7, 2002
Keep Case

Chapters 18

 

 

Comments:

The Young Poisoner's Handbook is a marvelous film with a history of neglect at the hands of distributors. It was barely marketed and given a minimal release in the U.S. by Cinepix Film Properties, which later became Lions Gate—a company with a reputation for cynical mistreatment of its (and Artisan's) back catalogue. As such, The Young Poisoner's Handbook remains one of the great overlooked gems of the 1990s.

The R0 NTSC release by fifth-rate distributor Platinum Disc Corp., reissued with a different cover after Platinum rechristened itself "Echo Bridge" (which echoes, if you will, Anchor Bay, but in name only), is hideous. A bargain-priced release at $6.99, this is no-frills all the way, with eye-murdering menu screens and a non-progressive, full-screen transfer. Combing is prevalent, and colors are drab, with ample evidence of contrast-boosting. I'm guessing the transfer was taken from the laserdisc put out by Image Entertainment, which itself featured washed-out colors like many of the American prints of the film circulated by CFP (European prints were a lot richer), although the image on this DVD is of VHS quality. The audio is serviceable, although it's a bit too bright and lacks dimension (it's difficult to say whether or not it's truly stereo), as well as featuring a prominent analog hiss throughout.

The Swedish R2 release, which has seen at least three variations on its cover art, by Atlantic Film is a mystery. It's progressive and anamorphic, with more natural skin tones (albeit a bit on the red side) and free of digital artefacts, though overall a bit soft. Clearly, the resolution is consistent with DVD quality, but there are some major and inexplicable problems where the framing is concerned. I'd calculate that the source for this transfer was a 35mm print, yet it does not actually add anything to the 1.33:1 image of the NTSC edition. Furthermore, the NTSC is not open-matte. It is pan-and-scan. The R2 PAL release by Atlantic Film crops an already cropped 1.33:1 image, resulting in substantial image loss on all four sides (this has been confirmed by a source close to the production). Note the tight framing and total lack of headroom, and also note the cropping of the word "THALLIUM" in capture #4. Also, the image on the R2 edition is vertically squished, with objects appearing slightly wider (fatter) than they should. On top of that, there's a vertical white line visible throughout, on the extreme right edge of the frame, and there's a faint reddish haze on the left side of the image. Audio is perfectly fine, however.

Extra features include an English-language trailer for The Young Poisoner's Handbook, and trailers for Of Love and Shadows and Blue Juice. Also, the disc contains filmographies—in English—for cast and crew, which add another interesting facet to this disc: the biography included here for British actor Hugh O'Conor is actually that of American actor Hugh O'Connor, suicided son of Carroll O'Connor.

Someone, somewhere, needs to give The Young Poisoner's Handbook the DVD release it deserves. Both this disc and the American disc are abominations, and neither is recommended.

Note: the first four screen caps are reduced in size to emphasize cropping/framing issues.

 - Paul Haynes

 



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Echo Bridge Home Entertainment (né Platinum Disc Corp.) - Region 1 - NTSC - LEFT vs. Atlantic Film AB - Region 2 - PAL - RIGHT)


 

 
 
 

 

 


 

Screen Captures

(Echo Bridge Home Entertainment (né Platinum Disc Corp.) - Region 1 - NTSC - TOP vs. Atlantic Film AB - Region 2 - PAL - BOTTOM)

 

 


(Echo Bridge Home Entertainment (né Platinum Disc Corp.) - Region 1 - NTSC - TOP vs. Atlantic Film AB - Region 2 - PAL - BOTTOM)

 

 


(Echo Bridge Home Entertainment (né Platinum Disc Corp.) - Region 1 - NTSC - TOP vs. Atlantic Film AB - Region 2 - PAL - BOTTOM)

 

 


(Echo Bridge Home Entertainment (né Platinum Disc Corp.) - Region 1 - NTSC - TOP vs. Atlantic Film AB - Region 2 - PAL - BOTTOM)

 

 


(Echo Bridge Home Entertainment (né Platinum Disc Corp.) - Region 1 - NTSC - TOP vs. Atlantic Film AB - Region 2 - PAL - BOTTOM)

 

 


(Echo Bridge Home Entertainment (né Platinum Disc Corp.) - Region 1 - NTSC - TOP vs. Atlantic Film AB - Region 2 - PAL - BOTTOM)

 

 


(Echo Bridge Home Entertainment (né Platinum Disc Corp.) - Region 1 - NTSC - TOP vs. Atlantic Film AB - Region 2 - PAL - BOTTOM)

 

 


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Image:

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Sound:

Atlantic Film AB

Extras: Atlantic Film AB
Menu: Atlantic Film AB

 
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Distribution

Echo Bridge Home Entertainment (né Platinum Disc Corp.)

Region 1 - NTSC

Atlantic Film AB
Region 2 - PAL


 




 

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