Darling Readers, do you have one of those films? One of those perfect go-to films, that just make everything okay? Maybe you are not quite sure what I mean. But I think a lot of classic movie fans will get this.
There is a comfort in classic cinema; the films are consistently entertaining, you don’t have to worry about the content being dated because you have already accepted the content is from another era. And the films, well they are like a comfortable old friend. You know where it is going, you know what is going to happen, and yet you return to the story again and again because the content is just that good.
One of those films you have seen enough times that it has entered into your vernacular, you quote the film unconsciously, one of those films.
In my household, we have a few films we can quote endlessly: The Bad Seed is one of those films.
I was having one of those days, I was angry, I am not even sure what the root of the anger was, although I am certain it was political because a lot of my random anger seems to stem from politics lately.
All I wanted was to go home, eat a bowl of tomato soup, and watch The Bad Seed.
Little Rhoda Penmark (Patty McCormack) is a special little girl. She is as pretty as a picture, polite, and sweet. Oh yes, very sweet, sugar and spice, and everything nice. And maybe just a little touch of arsenic.
But within the heart of little Rhoda lies a cruel, cold, and calculating murderess who will stop at nothing to get what she wants.
Like a penmanship medal. It was the only gold medal her teacher would hand out, and naturally, it should have come to Rhoda. After all, she is the perfect little girl. But when her teacher Miss Fern gives the medal to her classmate Claude Daigle, well Rhoda sees fit to remedy that little situation. She drowns the little boy, beats him with her tap shoes, and steals the medal.
But of course, no one would suspect dear, sweet, little Rhoda.
Except for Rhoda’s teacher, and Mrs. Daigle, and the janitor, Leroy (Henry Jones).
Leroy: Do you know the noise the electric chair makes? It goes “Zzzt!” And when that juice hits you, it parts your hair neat! “Bzzzt!” Like lightnin’ struck ya!
Rhoda: Oh, go on with your lawn mower. They don’t put little girls in the electric chair.
Leroy: They do! They got a little blue chair for little boys and a little pink chair for little gals!
As it turns out, Claude Daigle is not Rhoda’s first victim. Nor will he be the last.
Rhoda’s mother Christine (Nancy Kelly) becomes suspicious when she considers how indifferent Rhoda is to Claude’s passing, and her suspicions are confirmed when she finds the medal in Rhoda’s jewelry box.
The problems are exacerbated when Christine discovers she was adopted, her mother was a serial killer named Bessie Denker, and Rhoda clearly has inherited her grandmother’s tendencies.
Based on the novel by William March and adapted by playwright Maxwell Anderson, The Bad Seed centers on the argument of whether evil tendencies can be inherited. The film seems more like a play than a film from Monica’s (Evelyn Varden) rapid-fire line delivery to the monologues peppered throughout the script.
This film is well directed and well acted, with memorable performances from all its characters.
Highly recommended for rainy days, or combating the blues, make sure you stick around for the post-film credits.