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The Young Poisoner's Handbook
The Young Poisoner's Handbook
Actor: Hugh O'Connor; Antony Sher; Charlotte Coleman
Director: Benjamin Ross
Genres: Indie & Art House, Drama, Mystery & Suspense
R     2005     1hr 39min

A sinister tale of genius gone wrong, The Young Poisoner's Handbook chronicles a young man's descent into madness against the absurd backdrop of suburban English life. Hugh O'Conor plays Graham Young, a schoolboy from the ...  more »


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Movie Details

Actor: Hugh O'Connor; Antony Sher; Charlotte Coleman
Director: Benjamin Ross
Genres: Indie & Art House, Drama, Mystery & Suspense
Sub-Genres: Indie & Art House, Drama, Mystery & Suspense
Studio: Echo Bridge Home Entertainment
Format: DVD - Color
DVD Release Date: 04/05/2005
Original Release Date: 02/23/1996
Theatrical Release Date: 02/23/1996
Release Year: 2005
Run Time: 1hr 39min
Screens: Color
Number of Discs: 1
SwapaDVD Credits: 1
Total Copies: 0
Members Wishing: 5
MPAA Rating: R (Restricted)
Languages: English

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Movie Reviews

Funny, disturbing--and true
LGwriter | Astoria, N.Y. United States | 11/30/2002
(4 out of 5 stars)

"Based on the exploits of a real young man who poisoned his way through life, this film by writer-director Benjamin Ross is clever, sharp, and simultaneously disturbing. As introvert loner Graham Young, Hugh O'Conor captures just the right mix of intelligence, emotional distance, and nastiness that made up the character of the real poisoner. But Ross is witty and imaginative as well as faithful to the facts; he livens up the tale with some punchy black comedy, dream imagery, and creative cinematography that makes this much more than a conventional film.His first victim is his stepmother. This is one of the most disturbing sequences in the film; we watch her disintegrate before our eyes and it is painful viewing. But by that time, Ross how shown how a crude, dysfunctional family can produce someone like the young poisoner and it's a strong portrayal indeed.Graham does not stop with his stepmother, of course. His relentless quest for the perfection of his craft has its consequences, not least of which is 'treatment' by a well-meaning psychiatrist who insists on Graham sharing his dreams. For those who like disturbing British black comedy-drama--one of the real fortes of British cinema--this one's for you."
'ave a nice cuppa!
LGwriter | 02/17/2002
(5 out of 5 stars)

"OH DEAR LORD!This quiet little gem is finally available, and tells the sad and true tale of this rather disturbed young man who deals with the opposition in rather a drastic way! He IS literally the Young Poisoner, and finds all of these quaint facts readily available in print - that's why reading can be quite dangerous!
[The movie also points a very strong finger at the health care system - releasing the 'incurable' as cured......] Darkly funny - like the moment when one of the first victims - dear 'MUM', almost gone, speechless at this stage, suddenly 'sees'the truth, but cannot warn! Oh, it gets better, much better, almost runs like one of those old 1950 Ealing comedies or the later "Fish Called Wanda".Another grand scene? At work, much later in our boy's life, when he has doctored, shall we say., the staff's morning tea., but cannot remember which mug has the 'brew that is true' [or it is the 'vessle with the get my drift!]Yes, truth is stranger than fiction this time around - for more -take this little poison pill! Young Hugh O'Connor shines as the 'hero' and reminds one the delightful Bud Cort - so seldom seen these days.Something along the lines of'The Ruling Class', but Blue Collar!"
Dead Pan Black Comedy, Well Done
C. O. DeRiemer | San Antonio, Texas, USA | 05/04/2005
(4 out of 5 stars)

""I was very young when I discovered a gift for chemistry," says Graham Young (Hugh O'Connor), an English lad with wide, innocent eyes and a commitment to the scientific method. After an experiment with the effects of antimony sulfide on a friend who displeased him, Graham decides that further, more complete experiments are necessary. "I had decided what directions my scientific career would take, and there would be no turning back." So at about 13 years of age, he embarks on the slow poisoning of his stepmother, which, after taking meticulous notes, he brings to a conclusion with a few doses of thallium. "I had discovered my metier," Graham says. "Thallium was to be my life's work." He seeks to discover a form of thallium which is odorless, tasteless and colorless, and where a drop or two will be fatal. He also moves on to his father. "Being a good poisoner involves remaining undetected," he observes. "Becoming a famous one would seem to demand being caught."

At 14 he becomes famous, his father survives, and he is judged to be an incurable psychopath. He is placed in a mental institution for life. There he meets Dr. Ernest Zeigler (Antony Sher), a prison psychiatrist who sees through Graham's initial attempts at manipulation and recognizes a very smart young man who, Zeigler believes, can be salvaged. And salvage Graham Young he does, who after years in the asylum is finally released, cured. Graham takes a job in a factory doing stockwork and helping to prepare tea for the tea breaks. And one evening he discovers a cabinet full of chemicals...including thallium. In the weeks that follow Graham rediscovers his passion for chemistry and his commitment to the scientific method. A couple of people die and a whole group of his coworkers come close to before he is found out. Back to prison he goes, where he eventually dies. This is all based on a true story.

This movie, in my view, is a terrific dead-pan black comedy. The first and last thirds are marvelous and fascinating to watch. The middle, while Graham is in the asylum, gets a bit serious. Graham is taken on his own terms in the movie, utterly serious, utterly committed to his calling, tracking his doses, noting the effects, estimating the time of death for those he will finish out. He observes with a clinical detachment which is amusing and unsettling. He shows no remorse because he doesn't know what remorse is. Hugh O'Connor does a wonderful job as Graham. He looks like a choir boy with a sincere stare.

The movie, probably unsurprisingly, was barely seen in the U.S and didn't do much better in Britain. Even with the film's slower middle, I enjoyed it a lot. The DVD looks just fine."
Witty British Tale of a Teenaged Poisoner
interested_observer | San Francisco, CA USA | 04/13/2005
(4 out of 5 stars)

"Graham Young (played by Hugh O'Conor) is a very intelligent British teenager who finds an affinity for chemistry and none for social skills. As a step-child he finds himself buffeted about by his new family. Believing himself capable of great things, he fancies himself a king who needs a queen. Unfortunately the queen of his choice already has a relationship with a classmate-buddy of his. When an experiment with antimony sulfide goes awry, Graham changes strategies and puts the antimony (and later, thallium) to a less acceptable use. Eventually he goes to a prison for psychopaths. There he is clever enough to work through a psychologist, Dr. Zeigler (played by Antony Sher), to win a release and a new life. But what happens then?

The joy of the movie is strong supporting cast who react in quirky, British ways to Graham and the mysterious illnesses going around. O'Conor gives an intense but restrained portrayal of the troubled lad and provides some good skin shots as well. Sher is a convincing professional trying to salvage some good from the unpromising inhabitants of the hospital. The acting is witty throughout.

It is a shame the DVD has no extras at all, other than a scene list. Still, the low price makes the DVD a bargain. Recommended.