Thursday, October 31, 2013

The Bad Seed (1956)

Director: Melvyn LeRoy

Writers: John Lee Mahin, Maxwell Anderson, William March

Composer: Alex North

Starring: Nancy Kelly, Patty McCormack, Henry Jones, Eileen Heckart, Evelyn Varden, William Hopper, Paul Fix, Jesse White, Gage Clarke, John Croydon, Frank Cady

More info: IMDb

Tagline: A WOMAN'S SHAME...Out in the Open!

Plot: Christine Penmark seems to have it all: a lovely home, a loving husband and the most "perfect" daughter in the world. But since childhood, Christine has suffered from the most terrible recurring nightmare. And her "perfect" daughter's accomplishments include lying, theft and possibly much, much worse. Only Christine knows the truth about her daughter and only Christine's father knows the truth about her nightmare.

My rating: 9.5/10

Will I watch it again? Yes.


To call Rhoda a bad seed is like saying Hitler disagreed with the Jews.  This little bitch is bad fucking news. The cast is brilliant.  I can see how people will think that Nancy Kelly (playing Rhoda's mother, Christine) is over the top but you have to consider she is losing her mind over the course of the film.  She can't handle the suspicions and later evidence that her sweet, perfect child is a cold blooded, manipulative murderer.  Payy McCormack is brutally chilling as Rhoda.  Wow.  What a performance!  Every cast member does a fantastic job.  This picture has every element of expertise working for it.  Alex North's score is subtle and effective.  When Hortense (Heckart) comes to visit the Penmark house, drunk out of her mind after her son mysteriously drowned, at the end of that scene there's a quiet melody played by the strings that's close to Alex North's love theme from SPARTACUS (1960).  Gorgeous music.  North is one of my top favorites so it's always a treat to see one of his films and it feels weird that it's been probably a decade since I last saw this.

There are so many eerie and effective moments.  The screams from Leroy (Jones) when Rhoda burns him alive, the scene where Nancy coaxes a confession out of Rhoda about not only the Daigle boy's murder but others, the murder/suicide and the ending!  HOLY FUCK ME SIDEWAYS, that ending!  WOW!  Talk about sweet revenge.  It's one of the most satisfying endings I've ever experienced.  I've easily seen this movie nearly ten times and it's still effective.  All of these things add up to a frightening little picture and when you consider it was made nearly 60 years ago, it's even more astonishing. I can do without the coda with the cast callback and it would have been nice if Nancy had died from her self-inflicted gunshot head wound to give the film that extra bit of darkness.  Other than that, it's all good, Baby!

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