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I was eleven or younger when I watched his film. I had sat up late
t.v. with my father (sometimes we would do that until it went off the
air--remember those days?). He fell asleep and I ended up watching Bad
Ronald, the last thing on that night, all alone.
All I know is, I couldn't stop watching until the end, and I have never forgotten this movie. It scared me so much that I was afraid to get up and turn the t.v. off when it was over, and I still have a surprisingly clear recall of the film more than twenty years later. Surely this says something about the power of the idea, if nothing else.
Ronald's fantasy world was a big stand-out to me, as was the horror of his position, unexpectedly deserted by the only person who loved him.
Several people have commented on the bizarre fantasy aspects of this
weird little movie...and for that we can thank the fantastic
imagination of its author, the inimitable Jack Vance. Vance is better
known as one of the most singular fantasy and sci-fi authors of the
last fifty years -- his 'Dying Earth' stories are classics of the
genre. Yet as far as I know, Bad Ronald is the only book of his ever
made into a movie.
I'd love to see this come out on DVD, along with other classic ABC Movies of the Week like "Don't Be Afraid of the Dark" and "Crowhaven Farm".
I watched this TV movie in January 1979 on television in England one weekday afternoon when I was off school. I was 15 years old and having a miserable time in my life. Bad Ronald captured perfectly my feelings of loneliness, isolation, being trapped and retreating into myself. You can imagine that I identified closely with Ronald's experience and the film made a lasting impression on me as it seems to have done on others. A couple of years ago I did manage to get hold of it on video and saw for the first time in a quarter of a century. Happily I can watch it now with much greater detachment. The director Buzz Kulik is better known, I believe, for Brian's Song but Bad Ronald deserves to be remembered too.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Bad Ronald was promoted heavily in the week preceding its air. The scene which included Ronald's eye peering back through the peephole at the girl who has just found it, replete with blood curdling horror-scream, is, with it's creepy soundtrack and wide angle distortion, one of the defining moments of teenage tele-voyeurism we have, and was shown at least fifty times to Americans before the movie aired, prompting many parents to quip "you're not watching that," before the full program air. But the effect worked and, although the film is a cheap derivation of Alfred Hitchcock's Psycho (1960), it's themes of forbidden lust and masturbatory existence trapped inside "one's own house" gave ABC the highest ratings for one of its MOW of that era (Nielsen). Kim Hunter of Streetcar Named Desire and Planet of the Apes fame does a classic turn as the clinging, insecure nag of a mother, protecting her mamma's boy "Ronald" whom she had too late in life ("mommy I killed the girl next door, she was making fun of me!") by walling-in a bathroom and giving him Carnation powdered milk to drink (a metaphor for her own menopausal "change" and long-dried bosom), which had just come onto the market and in reality was something else disgustingly tangible for America's teens to further identify. Ronald's existence, and later, his abandonment, inside his "room" is, essentially, one long "time-out" gone haywire, after he does THE dastardly deed of all deeds and doesn't come straight home like his mother said to. The film is more Revenge of the Nerds meets Psycho, than some of the other references here, but not to discount it's overall tone of fantastic Freudian self actualization deftly handed off by veteran director Buzz Kulick. Ronald takes the humiliating plunge into manhood by crashing through the wall of his room and into the arms of the police, crying out for his overbearing mum, as did Anthony Perkins in Psycho, and leaves us shaking our heads with a smile.
Many fans of 70s tv horror revere this obscure and neat movie from 1974.And with good reason!Ronald is a shy young man with a wild imagination who lives with his twisted mother.After he accidentally kills a neighborhood girl and buries her,his ma surmises Ronald should hide in a plastered-over room until things settle down.Ma dies and Ronald stays put,drilling peepholes into every room.By this point he's quite deranged and when a new family with pretty daughters moves in,look out!Scott Jacoby is great as Ronald and the whole movie is very creepy.I've seen other movies that borrowed elements of BR(hider in the house,christina's house),but none reached the eerie level of this one.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
One of the better TV movies from 1970's I saw this movie a long time ago. I remember it well and I loved it. Ronald Wilby accidentally kills a girl. In order to avoid prosecution from the police, Ronald and his mother construct a secret chamber in the house where Ronald hides and lives. Ronald's mother tells him that she has to leave for a week to have an operation but she dies. As a result, a new family moves into the Wilby house while Ronald continues to live in the walls and spy on the new family and their three daughters. As the movie continues, Ronald sinks deeper and deeper into madness creating and living in his own world called "ATRANTA". In his world, Ronald becomes "Prince Norbert" the ruler of Atranta. Ronald also falls in love with the youngest of the daughters who he calls "Princess Vancetta". He eventually kidnaps her. This movie was really creepy and suspenseful for its time. I loved the scene where the nosy neighbor Mrs. Schumacher caught Ronald raiding the refrigerator. The movie is a watered down version of the novel by John Holbrook Vance, but in the 1970's censorship, most TV movies were also watered down this way. It is definitely dated and the clothes that people wear in this movie are those reminiscent of the ones worn by the Brady Bunch. By today's standards, this movie would be considered to be campy but it is definitely worth a look because it is a good story! The ending was pretty wild too!! Emmy Winner Scott Jacoby did a great job as Ronald Wilby. He handled his role very well and brought a good deal of complexity and depth to his character. Remember how he was knawing on that candy bar? Oscar winning actress Kim Hunter(also known for her role as Dr. Zera in the "Planet of the apes" movies) played his doting mother who had high aspirations for Ronald to become a doctor. A very young Dabney Coleman played Mr. Wood, who moved his wife and three daughters into the Wilby house unaware of Ronald's probing eyes spying on them from behind the walls. This movie is still around and you can buy it on VHS on Ebay. It sells on Ebay very fast and it took me 4 tries to finally buy it. Collectors are after this movie because an original VHS with the original artwork cover of it is very rare. As far as I know, a DVD version of it hasn't been released. However, you can buy a high quality DVD copy. Follow the link: http://www.franksreelreviews.com/shorttakes/buybr.htm I posted some "BAD RONALD" trivia questions here on the message board. If you are a true "BAD RONALD" fan, check out the message board here and see how many Bad Ronald trivia questions that you can answer. Good Luck!
An eerie film about an outcast teenage boy who lives in a fantasy world of princes and princesses which he spends his time elaborately illustrating on paper as a hobby. His mother has more sensible expectations for her son with a future medical career. But that bright future may never materialize after Ronald accidently kills a girl passing by who was taunting him with cruel remarks. In a state of shock and grief at what he'd done, Ronald buries the girl's body in a shallow grave and returns home. His mother, upon seeing him exhausted and dirty, asks what happened. Ronald, still visibly shaken, tells his mother what he did and his she tries to console him advising that it was only an accident. But when he tells his mother that he buried the girl's body, his mother becomes alarmed and angered realizing that the police will wonder why Ronald buried the body as if to conceal the incident. Knowing that this would destroy any chances of Ronald becoming a future doctor, his mother feels there is only one thing that can be done, hide Ronald in the house until things quiet down. She can just tell the police that he ran away. Ronald and his mother work through the night to convert a spare bathroom in their Victorian house into a well-concealed "hidden room" in the house where Ronald would remain at all times. One more problem arises as his mother must go in for some minor surgery which would leave Ronald on his own for a week alone. His mother dies during the operation. Ronald remains in the hidden room. The home is quickly put up for sale and a new family moves in. The house's new residents had already heard the horrific news of Ronald, and what he'd done, but they believed he had long since disappeared. Not long after the family settles in, they begin to hear unexplained noises and food begins missing from the kitchen. They wonder if their Victorian house also has a resident ghost. They find out soon enough!
On the face of it, Bad Ronald doesn't look like it has much going for
it, but despite some silly plot devices and the fact that it was made
for TV back in the seventies; this is actually a very decent little
cult gem. The film capitalises on the idea of creepy old houses being
haunted; only this time the house at the centre of the tale is not
inhabited by ghosts, but rather by the psychopathic son of the previous
owner. The premise works from what is probably the most obvious plot
device ever, as we watch the title character; an odd young man obsessed
by the fantasy world that he himself has created, accidentally murder a
young neighbourhood girl. That's just the start of the chain of events,
and when he comes home to tell his mother that he's killed a girl and
buried the body in a shallow grave, she immediately decides that he
must convert the downstairs bathroom into a secret hideout. He stays
there while his mother brings him food, but tragedy strikes when she
dies in hospital, leaving Ronald on his own. It's not long before a new
family moves in, and Ronald isn't moving out...
I'm probably overrating this film a little really, but the way that the story is delivered is completely undemanding, and that makes this a very fun film to watch. Too many films these days are too complicated, but Buzz Kulik's film focuses on the important elements, and the resulting film is very simple and easy to get into. The film isn't heavy on characterisation, but the central situation has more than enough to make up for this, and the character of Ronald is easy to get behind, despite the fact that he's the villain of the piece. The fact that it was made for TV is obvious as the film looks very cheap and the acting is largely diabolical, but I've seen a lot worse from theatrically released films. There's no blood and gore in the film, partly because it was made for television, and partly because the story really doesn't need any gore to succeed. Bad Ronald is a real bona fide cult gem; it may never achieve classic status, but its well worth tracking down and I highly recommend this film to anyone that gets their hands on it. I know I'll definitely see it again!
Another one of the made for TV films that appeared on the ABC Movies of
Week. Perhaps by today's standards it does not have the impact that it did
when it came out in 74. However for a made for TV movie the story is
intriguing and a level of suspense exists which keeps the viewer
in finding out what will happen next. Most of the 70's made for TV films
consisted of original unique stories with good acting and were all
in a 90-minute format. All in all they including this one still seem head
and shoulders above the made for TV movies of the 90's.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Gawky misfit teen Ronald (a truly spooky and unnerving performance by
Scott Jacoby; the gimpy magician in "The Little Girl Who Lives Down the
Lane") accidentally kills a bratty little girl. He's subsequently
hidden in a secret room of an old Victorian house by his sickly,
smothering mother (a wonderful portrayal by "Planet of the Apes" film
series regular Kim Hunter) in order to avoid being arrested by the
authorities. Mom dies and a new family -- father Dabney Coleman, mother
Pippa Scott, and their three hottie daughters Cindy Fisher, Cindy
Eibacher and Lisa Eibacher -- move into the swanky and enormous abode.
Ronald loses his grip on reality and disappears into an elaborate
fantasy world created by his own warped overactive imagination. One
fateful day he comes out of his clandestine hideaway hole to terrorize
the hapless adolescent lasses when the parents leave for the weekend.
One of the all-time classic 70's made-for-TV horror psycho thrillers, "Bad Ronald" 's extremely fantastic and far-fetched premise is made reasonably credible and totally compelling by journeyman TV show veteran Buzz Kulik's capable direction (along with his episodic TV show credits, Kulik also helmed the enjoyable Burt Reynolds private eye picture "Shamus" and the underrated Steve McQueen action vehicle "The Hunter"). Fred Karlin's effectively eerie score and a top-rate cast make this feature a cut above average TV movie fare. Popping up in especially nice bits are John Larch as a shrewd homicide detective and John Fiedler as a friendly real estate agent. Yeah, this film is fairly preposterous, but thankfully Jacoby's unforgettably creepy and disturbing character keeps the show gripping and harrowing right down to its thrilling climax. Jacoby's role as a murderously messed-up teenage nerd deserves a place right alongside "The Bad Seed" 's Patty McCormack and the Udvarnovsky brothers from "The Other" in the All-Time Scary Killer Kids Hall of Infamy.
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