The Bad Seed (1956)

Genres - Thriller  |   Sub-Genres - Psychological Thriller  |   Release Date - Sep 12, 1956 (USA - Unknown)  |   Run Time - 127 min.  |   Countries - United States   |   MPAA Rating - NR
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The Bad Seed, the film version of Maxwell Anderson's Broadway play, was especially topical in the 1950s, when Americans were dealing with a rising tide of juvenile delinquency. While Seed can't really be taken seriously as sociology, it's tremendous fun as film. Director Mervyn LeRoy keeps things moving at a steady clip, stressing the thriller aspects of the story. Although he has only a few opportunities to physically "open up" the play from its one-set origins, this doesn't harm the film -- and sometimes helps it, by emphasizing the Mother's feeling that she is trapped (by both her situation and her true heritage). Nancy Kelly's performance is rather odd at times and overly stagy, but overall is quite effective. Her vocal delivery, bizarre at first, somehow seems organic and eventually grows on the viewer. Patty McCormack gives one of the better children's performances in film and really makes one's blood run cold, and Henry Jones is appropriately disturbing as the peculiar handyman. The best performance, however, is Eileen Heckart's turn as the mother of the little boy killed by Rhoda. Her two scenes are a tour de force, and she creates a character that is at one time pathetic, repulsive, embarrassing, sympathetic, and pitiable. While the tacked-on "justice must be served" ending is unnecessary, it fortunately doesn't actively detract from one's enjoyment of this film.