Countdown to Halloween!
Getting closer to All Hallows Eve! Continuing my series of film recommendations for Turner Classic Movies Horror Fridays at 8:00 pm. This week’s DVR choice is “The Bad Seed” (1956). Talk about scary kids! This flick is a cult classic that is truly shocking and begs the question – Is evil inherited? “The Bad Seed’s mother – Christine Penmark (Nancy Kelly) must confront that possibility as she begins to suspect that all is not quite right with Rhoda (Patty McCormack), her perpetually well-mannered child. Mom is finally forced to confront the possibility that her daughter may actually be a murderous sociopath after circumstances become too real to ignore.
“The Bad Seed” (1956)
Let’s start with our angelic, eight-year-old darling – Rhoda Penmark who oh so sweetly plays the French song “Au Clair de la lune” on her piano while screams emanate from the basement. Don’t ever threaten to narc on her. Looks like they’re going to be needing a new caretaker.
This child is cold blooded! In her case, trinkets are a girl’s best friend. So, when an old woman promises to leave Rhoda a gem, she – the old woman – apparently couldn’t die fast enough so our little darling volunteers to help the process along. Oh boy, a Penmanship Medal, a very tasty trinket indeed. But Rhoda loses out to classmate Claude Daigle and feels cheated so of course she takes matters into her own hands to acquire what she feels she deserves. Oh well, poor little Claude Daigle.
This film was the first of its kind since the censors forbade movies that featured children as killers. But Warner Bros.’ Studio was able to get away with it by adding an “adults only” tag to the film’s advertising and altering the original ending. The film is based upon a play (of the same name) by Maxwell Anderson, which in turn is based upon William March’s 1954 novel The Bad Seed. The play was adapted by John Lee Mahin for the screenplay of the film.
The play’s principal players, Nancy Kelly (Christine Penmark), Eileen Heckart (Mrs. Daigle), Henry Jones (LeRoy the caretaker) and Patty McCormack (Rhoda Penmark) all revised their roles in the film adaptation.
“The Bad Seed” was one of Warner Bros.’ biggest hits of the year, grossing $4.1 million and one the year’s top 20 at the box office. Academy Award Nominations were given to Nancy Kelly: Best Actress, Eileen Heckart: Best Actress in a Supporting Role, Patty McCormack: Best Actress in a Supporting Role and Best Cinematography (Black-White) Hal Rosson. Eileen Heckart won a Golden Globe Award for her performance.
Since I always follow the film fan rule, I won’t divulge the ending. Plus I promised Warner Bros.’ at the end of the movie.