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In this stylish and atmospheric psychological thriller reminiscent of Henry James's Turn of the Screw, a widowed English writer brings a young, glamorous new bride to his bleak, isolated home in rural Spain. She soon becomes obsessed with her 12-year old stepson, who she learns has just been expelled from school for mysterious offenses; while the boy enjoys, exploits, and feeds her increasing paranoia about him. That he is a brilliant and lonely child is obvious. But is he the victim of a neurotic woman's overwrought imagination-- in Shakespeare's words, the innocent flower, or the serpent under it? Written by
Paul Emmons <email@example.com>
Not the worst of its kind, but not the best either
This is just what the world needed--the star of "Oliver" as a pubescent sex pervert and psychopath. A young woman (Swedish sex symbol Britt Ekland)marries an older man soon after his first wife dies in a mysterious bathtub accident. All is fine until his creepy 12-year-old son (played by Mark "Oliver" Lester) returns home early from school. The cold, precocious youngster tortures and kills animals, tells malicious lies to turn her husband against her, spies on them in bed(this was alternately marketed under the more lurid title "What the Peeper Saw"), and for the piece de resistance forces her to strip while he reveals the truth about what happened to his mother. This movie is not entirely uninteresting, but it is let down by the acting. Britt Ekland was great dancing naked in "The Wicker Man" and tolerable as a bikini-clad Bond girl in "The Man with the Golden Gun", but she is simply not a good enough actress to play a dramatic lead. As for Lester there is probably a reason he never made the leap from child to adult star--he was pretty much a British MacCauley Culkin (who years later would star in a very similar "Bad Seed"-type movie called "The Good Son"). Lester is not very scary and he's certainly not very convincing as an erudite child genius (who names his dogs "Trotsky" and "Hanibal").
Modern audiences will probably be surprised by the sexual intrigue between Ekland and Lester. I don't know if that scene where she strips for him was controversial at the time, but I know a similar scene in Lucio Fulci's "Don't Torture a Duckling" where Barbara Bouchet displays herself to a young boy certainly was.
The ending is surreal, bizarre, and really doesn't make a lick of sense, but it's vastly preferable to the very predictable ending of the "The Good Son" or the ridiculous deus ex machina ending of the original "The Bad Seed". This film may not be as creepy and well-acted as the "The Bad Seed", but it's not as stagey and it was filmed in one of the most beautiful places in the world, the north of Spain. However, if you want good acting, a truly creepy storyline, AND beautiful cinematography, the best of these bad seed/child psycho movies is "The Sailor Who Fell from Grace with the Sea" with Kris Kristoferson.
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