1951-1960CrimeDramaMervyn LeRoyUSA

Mervyn LeRoy – The Bad Seed (1956)

Robin Wood located the seeds for the ghoulish moppet’s maternal stabbing in Night of the Living Dead (and The Exorcist, The Omen, The Brady Bunch, et al.) in little Tootie pulverizing the snowmen in Meet Me in St. Louis; roots had already settled by the time Maxwell Anderson’s play about a soulless sprite got transplanted to screens, only the intergenerational anxiety is whipped into safe, static, psycho-babbling kitsch hysteria. Rhoda (Patty McCormick), the pigtailed, 8-year-old devil, skips back home from drowning a schoolmate and asks mom Nancy Kelly for a peanut-butter sandwich; a “perfect little ray of sunshine,” Au Clair de la Lune played on a loop while the handyman (Henry Jones), wise to the monster behind the curtsies, is barbecued in the basement. The upheavals of the ’50s, undigested and unacknowledged, but the is the parents’ viewpoint, thus the child has evil rubber-stamped on her via inherited genes — a Bad Seed from birth, nothing to be done except have God (the ultimate patriarch figure, after all) give this hellion the lighting bolt-spanking she truly deserves. Mervyn LeRoy, a vintage hack by then embarked in his late-career embalming of prized theater pieces, accentuates middle-distances and prosaic set-ups, the better to record the insanity, and why take the camera outside for the boy’s killing when the whole shebang can be summed up over the airwaves into the main drawing room? “Children can be nasty,” distraught Eileen Heckart slurs to Kelly, though Mother Love dies last, one more thing piled on the wringing shoulders of the most nerve-wrecked perf ever subjected to film; later on, “She killed him, but she’s my little girl,” so the camp cultists can laugh at Kelly’s indigenous Kabuki contortions vis-à-vis McCormick’s immovable smirk. Freud? Oedipus? Why not Sirk, or Siegel, or Tashlin? After all, the mock-spanking curtain call tells us, it’s only (or “only”?) a movie. With Evelyn Varden, William Hopper, Paul Fix, and Jesse White. In black and white.

2.78GB | 2h 09m | 1024×576 | mkv



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