The Young Poisoner's Handbook

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The Young Poisoner's Handbook
The Young Poisoner's Handbook FilmPoster.jpeg
Directed by Benjamin Ross
Produced by Sam Taylor
Written by Jeff Rawle
Benjamin Ross
Starring Hugh O'Conor
Tobias Arnold
Ruth Sheen
Roger Lloyd-Pack
Norman Caro
Charlotte Coleman
Cinematography Hubert Taczanowski
Edited by Anne Sopel
Distributed by C/FP Distribution
Release dates
  • 1995 (1995)
Running time
93 minutes
Country United Kingdom
Language English
Box office $330,466[1]

The Young Poisoner's Handbook is a 1995 British-German-French-produced black comedy film based on the life of Graham Young, more commonly known as "The Teacup Murderer". It was directed by Benjamin Ross and written by Ross and Jeff Rawle. The film stars Hugh O'Conor in the lead role.[2]


The film's portrayal of Graham Young (1947 – 1990) is not wholly true to life, and thus, the film is not truly biographical. Nonetheless, the main truths about him are conveyed. He was a poisoner, a murderer, a genius and a thoroughly amoral man.

Early scenes show Young as a child preoccupied with the macabre. In his teen years, he actually poisons a schoolmate — which made him ill rather than killing him — in order to date a girl his schoolmate was seeing. His conversation with his date involved vivid, graphic descriptions of deadly car accidents.

He also reads a comic book account of an event in which the Dutch Resistance killed a whole German army camp in the occupied Netherlands during the Second World War by poisoning their water supply with thallium.

Graham Young is arrested at the age of 14 outside his home in Neasden after having killed his stepmother and having tried to do the same to his father by lacing their food or medicine with thallium. During the struggle with police Young abuses the policemen because he drops his "Exit Dose" of thallium, which he intended to use to commit suicide should he be caught. He is imprisoned for nine years in an institution for the criminally insane, during which time a psychiatrist works with him in the hopes of rehabilitating him.

Graham's dishonesty becomes evident to the doctor, who can see that Graham is trying to deceive him. Graham apparently has no dreams to share with the psychiatrist so he "borrows" a fellow prisoner's dreams. This source is shut off to him, however, once the fellow prisoner commits suicide. Despite the initial evidence of deceptiveness on Graham's part, the doctor eventually gets him released.

Graham then goes to work in a camera factory and is shown the secret ingredient used in the company's shutter system — thallium. It is not long before Graham reverts to his old behaviour and starts poisoning people again. He kills two of his workmates by poisoning their tea with thallium stolen from the laboratory, and makes many others ill. For months, the source of the "bug" afflicting the workers at the factory remains a mystery until one unforeseen event leads to Graham's being found out. As a hygiene measure, all the personalized teacups are replaced with uniform ones, leaving Graham unable to poison people selectively. His efforts to memorize which cup is going to which person give him away, and his workmates finally realize what is going on.

Graham is arrested soon afterwards, and he is later sentenced to a lengthy prison term, this time in an ordinary prison. He commits suicide by poisoning himself using the "Newton's Diamond" he made in psychiatric prison, unlike the real Graham Young, who died of a heart attack. The film insinuates that Graham's ambition in life was to create an untraceable poison based on Thallium using his knowledge of chemistry; in reality his ambition was to become an infamous poisoner, which he achieved.


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