I always love watching this movie. Its a true classic. The performance of this little girl is amazing. How she switches from evil to sweet is flawless. Her relationship with the gardner is funny. He teases her and she gets mad. Her mother's anguish is so clear in the performance. imagine your child, a murderess and there's nothing you can do about it BUT protect her. Its a good mystery and has suspence but you'll love watching this beautiful little girl be very, very bad.
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"Rhoda, what happened to old Mrs. Post in Witchita?"
cookieman108 | Inside the jar... | 12/07/2004
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Does heredity and environment play equal parts in a child's development? Or is one factor stronger than the other? That's the loaded question the film The Bad Seed (1956) brings forth, seemingly siding on the side of heredity. Personally, I would tend to lean towards environment, but until we can definitely discern the nature of the wiring of our brains, mapping the neural networks and determining the thought processing pathways, we may never know...does bad beget bad? It's possible, but if so, what choices do we have in terms of ending genetically transposed evil from traversing one generation to another? Enforced sterilization? I wouldn't touch that subject with a ten foot Lech Walesa...
The Bad Seed, directed by Mervyn LeRoy (No Time for Sergeants), is actually a film based on a play written by Maxwell Anderson, which was based on a novel written by William March...quite a circuitous path to the silver screen, but one worth waiting for, in my opinion.
As the story begins, we meet the Penmarks, Kenneth (Hopper), Christine (Kelly), and their eight year old daughter Rhoda (McCormack), replete with blue eyes, blonde hair and pigtails. The family appears very normal, except Rhoda, who seems just a little too sweet, a little too ingratiating...but whatever...soon after Kenneth, who's a colonel in the military, has to leave for an extended period of time on some army business, one of Rhoda's school mates dies mysterious drowning incident, after supposedly falling off the end of a pier (seems the boy won an award coveted by Rhoda). No one is overtly posing the theory of foul play in the boy's death, but Christine discovers evidence suggesting her daughter may not be `sugar, spice, and everything nice' (by this time the audience has already entertained the notion that the glossy, sickly sweet veneer presented by Rhoda may conceal more than any of the cast is willing to accept). Connections are made, and truths are revealed (along with a long buried secret), but how does a mother accept the possibility that her child, her own flesh and blood, may be a cold, methodical, remorseless monster, especially when nearly everyone else believes differently .
While I did enjoy this movie, it does have its' faults. As others have mentioned, the film appears much like that of a staged play (not necessarily good for a film). The theater and film are two very different mediums, and what's good for one may not be good for the other. The theatrics within some of the characters (especially that of Ms. Kelly), while necessary for the stage, didn't always jibe on the screen. I do think all the actors did really well, even if a few of the performances tended to be over the top, but for the sake of the film, I think director LeRoy could have provided a stronger production coaxing a bit more subtly from certain cast members. Also, I have to say I found it a little hard to swallow at times that nearly everyone should except Rhoda's sweet, sweet act so whole-heartedly, as she tended to pour it on so very thick. Are, or were, adults ever this gullible? I could understand a certain amount of denial, as we like to think children are basically pure, unadulterated little lumps of clay, waiting to be fashioned into beings better than ourselves, but it seemed everyone (well, except for the handyman Leroy, played by Jones) was so very patently blind to her rather transparent act. Maybe I complain too much...the film did have an incredibly eerie quality throughout, and Patty McCormack did a wonderful job presenting her character, often giving me a major case of the creeps with a side order of the willies. Two performances that really stand out are that of Eileen Heckart and Henry Jones. Heckart plays the mother of the boy who died, drowning herself in the drink, trying to come to terms with what happened, knowing there is more to what happened than nearly everyone believes. Jones performance as Leroy, the creepy, borderline pedophilic handyman is probably the best, as he believes, while Rhoda has most everyone else fooled, he can see right through her act she puts on for the other adults, and takes some kind of perverse pleasure in teasing and taunting her, that is until he comes to the realization that Rhoda might not be just a spoiled, bratty child but something much more...something truly evil... The scenes with Jones and McCormack are chilling, partly because McCormack's character tends to drop the sweet, charming, adorable act knowing it won't work on Leroy, but also secure in the knowledge no one would believe him. The film runs surprisingly just a tad over two hours, but I felt the time was used well. Some have commented on the ending, and the difference between the film and the play, but one should keep in mind the ending used complied with The Motion Picture Production Code which had specific requirements with regards to criminal activity portrayed on the screen. It may have felt `tacked on', but it sure was satisfying (divine retribution, perhaps?)
The full screen (original aspect ratio) picture on this DVD looks really good, and the audio is clear and sharp. Special features include an original trailer, an interview piece with McCormack titled Enfant Terrible, and a commentary track featuring Patricia McCormack and everyone's favorite cross-dressing actor/playwright and Bette Davis enthusiast Charles Busch
Why would I tell and get killed?
(5 out of 5 stars)
"This movie is simply a masterpiece. There are no better words to describe it. The chilling morbidity of Rhoda Penmark, and the emotional ringer Christine goes through...it is wonderful! I am a fourteen year old girl who doesn't like the Varsity Blues and Scream movies of my generation, I love the Bad Seed. Most of my friends, however, have never heard of it and don't want to see it. I try to explain to them what a wonderful movie it is, but most of them just don't care. All my generation has grown up seeing slasher films. None of them can truly appreciate The Shining, Psycho, or the elusive simplicity of the Bad Seed. I have seen it many times and know it word for word. It's not a stupid slasher film, or even just a simple murder mystery. It is a solid psycological thriller. I adore it. I love LeRoy and his wonderful ability to be droll, I love Monica and her "I know everything" frame of mind, I love everything about the movie! My dream is to be in the play. Who knows? It could happen... :c)"
My Favorite Horror Movie of all Time
Inthespotlight | NJ | 02/07/2003
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I personally feel that this is one of the greatest horror movie made. Forget all of that blood and guts and popping out of the bushes to scare people. That fear only lasts for a second...This movie plays with your mind and lasts forever. Nothing is scarier than polite Miss Rhoda Penmark.
This movie contains brilliant direction and an amazing cast. Many people feel that the acting is overdone and that they act like they are still in the stage version, entertaining an audience in a theater but that is the way it was meant to be made. Making it look like a regular movie would ruin the essence of the evil, 8-year old killer. Nancy Kelly is truly amazing as Christine. Her "breakdown" scenes are heart wrenching and done very well. She is most-natural and does a wonderful job in playing a woman going through the delemma of whether or not she should hate or love her daughter. Her performance is beautiful, "She killed him! But she's my little girl...and I love her!". The highlight of her acting is when Rhoda just kills one of her victims (I won't say who) and Rhoda is playing the song she always plays on the piano faster and faster and faster. It is such and amazing scene. She deserved the Tony she won during the play and the Oscar nomination. Now, there is Patty McCormack who is definatly chilling in this role. Her perfect smile is just as scary as her evil ways. When she describes the way she killed the little boy I always shudder ,"But he told me that he was going to tell on me...SO I HIT HIM WITH MY SHOES AGAIN!! I hit him harder that time." After the scene where she confesses her murders and Christine tells Rhoda to throw her shoes down the incinerator, the shot of Rhoda's sillouette tossisng the shoes while Christine just sits in the backround and watches with fear, as Rhoda smiles, brings chills down my spine. Her acting gets an A+ and she also deserved the Oscar nomination as well as Kelly. Another, nominated for an Oscar for her role, was Eileen Heckart for the role of (which I think is one of the greatest characters in theatrical history)Mrs. Dagel..the grieving mother of one of Rhoda's vicitms. Although only appearing in two scenes, she makes just as big of an impact as Christine and Rhoda do. Heckart is brilliant in the role and it would be almost imposible to find someone who could do as good of a job as she did. Her beautiful monolougues are truly amazing and heartfelt. Other great performances are that of Henry Jones, the creepy Leroy who is the only one who realizes that Rhoda is evil, Evelyn Varden, as the housekeeper, Monica, who spoils Rhoda terribly, Miss Fern (I can't quite think of her name), as the teacher at The Fern School, and Christine's father (I can't think of his name now either), who is a former mystery writer with a big secret that he is keeping from Christine, which has to do with why Rhoda is a bad seed, something inside of Christine that she passed down to her daughter.There is a lot of controversy over the ending curtain call and the happy spank that Christine lays on Rhoda. I feel that the curtain call and spanking gives the audience a sese of relief since the movie is so disturbing.
I reccomend this movie to everyone that can handle a plot that is different and disturbing.
Don't blame Rhoda for her murderous acts. It isn't her falt, she is just a bad seed."
"The Bad Seed" Blossoms Nicely On DVD!
David Von Pein | Mooresville, Indiana; USA | 09/03/2004
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Cool-as-a-cucumber Rhoda Penmark is not at all what she appears to be. Hiding underneath that sweet, perfect exterior exists an unspeakable evil. Patty McCormack is superb as Rhoda, the pig-tailed murderess. The whole cast, in fact, is first-rate here. Some chilling moments await the viewer of this film, including a classic ending! A very good music score accompanies the action, as well.
This film was originally a stage play, and this "stagy" feel somewhat comes through in the movie version as well. But the film's convincing and effectively-told story cannot be denied. I would have loved, however, to have been able to see the stage play version, which starred the same group of actors we see in the motion picture.
Patty McCormack was 10 years old when "The Bad Seed" was made in 1956. Patty was so good here, she received an Academy Award Nomination for Best Supporting Actress. She lost the Oscar to Dorothy Malone, however.
Two other "Bad Seed" actresses were also nominated for Oscars -- Nancy Kelly and Eileen Heckart. Heckart was heart-breakingly good in this movie, playing the mother of one of Rhoda's victims.
In my opinion, Henry Jones (as handyman "LeRoy") could very easily have been yet *another* Oscar nominee that year. Jones was wonderfully "offbeat" in "The Bad Seed", delivering lines with a relish that simply *must* be replayed multiple times when watching this DVD. They are just too good and humorous to only view once. Such as his witty warning to little Rhoda: "They've got a little blue [electric] chair for little boys; and a little pink chair for little gals!"
This DVD retains the originally-shown "actors taking a bow" ending, which (in a way) dilutes the fabulous conclusion of the story. But, I like having the original ending included here nevertheless. You can always turn it off before you get to the last few minutes, so that you'll be left with that great ending "on the pier".
Original poster art adorns the cover of this DVD. And while I really like the diabolical look on Rhoda's face on this package, I'm perplexed (for the most part) by the written passages that are shown. They don't seem to quite "fit" this movie, IMO. Most curious I thought. Well, anyway, at least Warner Brothers has given us some original artwork for the cover (which is nice).
DVD Specs ...... Video is the OAR (Original Aspect Ratio) as seen in theaters in late 1956 -- Full Frame (1.33:1). This actually kind of surprised me a tad bit. Because I thought this film just *might* have been shot in a Widescreen format (which was, by 1956, becoming commonplace among movie studios). But, obviously, I was mistaken. The Full Frame format is correct for this movie. .... Audio: 1.0 Dolby Digital Mono soundtrack (English only). The audio for the Commentary Track is in rich-sounding 2.0 DD Stereo, with excellent channel separation between the two channels. .... Subtitles: English, French, and Spanish.
The video quality on this disc is absolutely superb! Just perfect from what I can see. This B&W film has never looked better on your TV screen. Just a terrific DVD transfer.
DVD Special Features include an Audio Commentary Track and a 15-minute "Making Of" documentary ("A Conversation With Patty McCormack"). McCormack, who was 58 years of age when this DVD was produced, provides some interesting observations about the making of the film during the documentary and she also participates in the Audio Commentary Track as well. The Original Theatrical Trailer is also included on this disc. This trailer, which has a run time of 3:19, is in very good shape (picture quality-wise), and is of particular interest to me for the many "alternate takes" that are shown of various scenes from the film. Nearly every scene that is previewed in this trailer is a slightly different variant from what ended up in the final cut of the movie.
This 1956 suspense-filled treasure looks mighty fine on DVD. Pick up a copy of this Grade-A thriller and let little Rhoda come into your home any time of the day or night. Just make sure you don't kick the DVD around carelessly -- because Rhoda wouldn't like that. And when Rhoda is displeased, she gets slightly cranky. :-)"
Nothing so chilling as a child murderer...
David Von Pein | 08/15/1999
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I have long thought that the makers of horror movies could learn a lesson from the simplicity that makes this movie so frightening. There are no special effects in the world that can pierce through the human soul like the unexplainable cold heartedness that is Rhoda Penmark. This movie was and remains to be, all on it's own in the realm of scary movies, because it could really happen in your neighborhood. Yes, the mother is overdramatic, characteristic of movies made so long ago. But in my opinion, splendid, just the same, as when she feels the pain of her realizations that her daughter may indeed be capable of such horrific things, we too, feel it right along with her. I was always angry at Christines' father for being so flippant about his daughter's fears. But that is part of what made this a great movie with an exceptional ending. I recently sent a gift copy to my eighteen year old neice who has never seen it. It was a favorite of her mother's and mine. I can't wait to see what she thinks of it."