Monday, December 15, 2008

The Bad Seed

I noticed that today marks the birthday of playwright and sometimes screenwriter Maxwell Anderson. So, I'd like to recommend the movie adaptation of his play The Bad Seed.

Nancy Kelly stars as Christine, a mother of an eight-year-old girl, and married to a military man who is constantly away on assignment. This leaves Christine to take care of Rhoda by herself. Rhoda seems like the perfect little daughter, but we soon learn that things are not quite as they seem. At a school picnic, one of the kids dies -- and Rhoda was apparently the last one to have seen him alive. However, it's difficult to believe that this sweet little eight-year-old could be a cold-blooded killer. And that's what makes things so frightening: Rhoda is indeed a cold-blooded killer, and not only that, she's unbelievably manipulative too, making it easy for her to convince most people that she couldn't have done anything wrong. Not only that, but for those people she can't convince, she can always kill them!

This all presents some serious problems for the mother. For obvious reasons, she doesn't want to believe her daughter is what she is, but she can't deny the truth. And what on earth do you do with an eight-year-old killer? The Bad Seed builds slowly to its chilling climax, wiht excellent performances from both Kelly and McCormack, who's got the most sang-froid since Gene Tierney in Leave Her to Heaven. It would be a joy to watch if it weren't so darn unsettling.

The Bad Seed is available on DVD and is highly worth watching, if you haven't seen it before. And if you have seen it already, it's worth watching again.

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