Bad Seed, The
Release Date(s)1956 (October 11, 2011)
With all due respect to those of you who are parents, kids are creepy. Your kids, no matter what perfect angels they may appear to be, are no exception. In fact, the more well-behaved and polite they are, the creepier they become. Hollywood has known this for a long time. All sinister devilspawn wear immaculate little suits, speak with authority and display not an ounce of guilt over any misdeed they may perform.
All modern creepy kid movies owe a huge debt of gratitude to Mervyn LeRoy’s 1956 shocker The Bad Seed. Based on a successful Broadway play, the movie stars Patty McCormack as Rhoda Penmark.
Outwardly, Rhoda is the perfect daughter in her old-fashioned dress and blonde pigtails. But when a rival classmate drowns on a school outing, her mother (Nancy Kelly) begins to suspect that her little darling might just be a little sociopath.
Viewed today, The Bad Seed seems to be as much a melodrama as it is a horror movie. It’s very much a product of its time with lots of talk about pop psychology, nature vs. nurture and other then-trendy topics. But even though parts of the movie haven’t aged well, it’s still quite a bit of fun. Eileen Heckart manages to be both funny and moving as the drunk mother of the drowned boy. While the movie certainly isn’t graphic, some of the violence is still surprising, especially for its time. And McCormack does create an archetypal character as Rhoda. Echoes of her performance reverberate down through later movies like Village Of The Damned and the Omen films.
Warner Home Video has brought The Bad Seed to Blu-ray with a minimum of fanfare. For the first time on home video, the movie is presented in a matted 1.78:1 aspect ratio. Previous DVD releases were framed at 1.33:1. The transfer isn’t bad although it’s a bit inconsistent. It hasn’t been given much of a digital makeover but it’s a little softer and less detailed than you’d expect. The mono audio is fine if unremarkable. Extras are ported over from the DVD and include an audio commentary by Patty McCormack and Charles Busch, a brief video interview with McCormack, and the original trailer.
While I’m not crazy about suggesting remakes, The Bad Seed would be a good candidate for an update. Some of the core ideas at the heart of the source material are still sound and chilling today. Dust away the cobwebs and some of the camp and you’d end up with a 21st century Bad Seed for today’s generation. Until then, the original offers up some fun and more than a little bit of weirdness.
- Dr. Adam Jahnke