Coming-of-age story about a bratty kid who takes an instant dislike to a strange new neighbor. The boy sets off on a campaign to smear his name and spread vicious rumors about him. His parents just can't handle the boy. But after the kid endangers all the crops in the valley by his vandalism of the neighbors oil tank, he comes to realize that people are not always what they appear to be. Written by
Creepy little item has an obvious message at the center...
This unknown little MGM item is based on a Charlotte Armstrong story (American mystery writer who wrote THE UNSUSPECTED and DON'T BOTHER TO KNOCK, among others). The main focus is on the little boy (BILLY GRAY) who thinks the new menacing neighbor is the man who killed his faithfuldog and he's played with professional assurance by Gray. In fact, he has to carry the film since GEORGE MURPHY and NANCY DAVIS are relegated to roles on the sidelines.
It's directed in competent style by Arthur Bradley, photographed in more than competent style by John Alton, full of moody B&W imagery, but the story is so thin it's almost transparent and winds up in a brief running time of one hour and five minutes.
The last ten minutes wind up the story in good fashion, although the ending is a bit hard to swallow, as contrived and synthetic as any character-driven tale could be. KURT KAZNAR is the mean looking neighbor who suddenly turns out to be Mr. Good Guy when we learn about his past. The simple moral of this fable is that you can't judge a book by its cover, nor a person by first impressions.
I have no criticism of Billy Gray's performance in the central role. He was one of the least self-conscious of all the child actors who came along at this time--and probably reached his peak as Doris Day's bratty little brother in BY THE LIGHT OF THE SILVERY MOON and ON MOONLIGHT BAY.
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