The Bad Seed

1956, Movie, NR, 127 mins


THE BAD SEED is an erratic but compelling film that lingers long after the fade-out. Patty McCormack is memorable as the eight-year-old liar, cheat, and murderess whose mother is convinced that she is a bad seed. Mother, of course, is right, but no one believes her. LeRoy deftly maneuvers what could have been a stagey and talky script (based on the stage hit by Maxwell Anderson) and keeps the action going. McCormack has murdered a schoolmate because the other boy received a medal for penmanship. Then we learn of the death of an old woman. Then Jones, the janitor, is burned. (One of the most macabre scenes in this bizarre film shows Jones deviling McCormack with thoughts of retribution, telling her that there are two types of electric chairs awaiting bad children: "They have a blue one for little boys and a pink one for little girls.") Nancy Kelly attempts suicide but fails, and Patty is finally....but no, if you haven't seen the picture, we'd rather not reveal the ending. At the end of the film LeRoy has the cast take a bow, the way they do on the stage, and that takes away some of the acrid taste. The Broadway play had the child terror getting away with murder in the end, a finish the Johnston Office (then the official censor, Eric Johnston succeeding Will Hays) would not tolerate; it demanded and got a "just" finale. Heckart is wonderful as the alcoholic mother of the dead schoolmate and was one of three actresses (Kelly--who lost to Ingrid Bergman for ANASTASIA and McCormack were the other two) to get Oscar nominations. Cinematographer Harold Rosson also received a nomination. Look for White (the lonely Maytag Man) as Emory. leave a comment

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