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*** This review may contain spoilers ***
The title of this Alfred Hitchcock episode seems oddly named. I just viewed this episode this evening and didn't see any reference to a butterfly. The story involves a married couple (Bradford Dillman and Diana Hyland) who move into a new home after the husband gets a new job. The main plot involves a neighbor who has a young son who appears to harbor sadistic tendencies. The son spies on his neighbors and starts to torment them by first killing the neighbor's dog and then attempting to use a power drill on the neighbor's wife (after injuring her). The husband finally confronts his neighbor's father after his wife is injured and nearly killed by the boy. The boy's father (played by Edward Asner) also appears to be a somewhat ruthless stern parent to the boy. The boy apparently is copying the ruthless behavior of his father. After the boy attempts to torch his father's car, Bradford realizes how the boy got to be the way he is and believes that he does need therapy to help to change his behavior. Initially, Bradford had thought that the boy was born evil and beyond help. This episode reminded me of the movie "The Bad Seed" involving a sadistic and homicidal young girl.
Ever wonder what it was like when Lou Grant got home after he finished
up at the TV station? This episode may have the answer because a young
Ed Asner plays the neighbor here, and his kid has some problems.
This one has so much packed into 50 minutes, first and foremost a strange and apparently mean little boy next door (the aforementioned child of Asner's character). A young married couple moves to a great new house, while trying to figure out where they fit in the world. The husband specifically has trouble deciding what it is means to be a man. What is most important, job, husband, dad.....
Each of the characters here is wrestling with demons that are hidden, sometimes not so well, beneath the surface of a quaint, suburban baby boom household. The Hitchcockian thriller of a story blends all the elements together for a very entertaining entry to this series. Highly recommended even casual fans of this show.
To Catch a Butterfly had all the makings of something top notch, one of
the best of the series Hitchcock hours; and even as it is it's a well
above average episode. There is a brief reference to a butterfly on but
the episode isn't about flying insects at all. It's about a disturbed
child and how his bad, often very bad behavior affects the young couple
that just moved next door in the suburban community he and his
no-nonsense, plain speaking father reside in.
As a study of a troubled child, the episode doesn't delve as deeply as it might have; and the script presents the young couple next door with almost too many issues of their own. Nor is the family of the boy presented with much insight. There's a generic by the numbers quality to the script that continually drags down what might have been either a gripping psychological thriller or an ahead of its time presentation of dysfunctional suburban family life circa 1962.
For all it's flaws, most of them minor, the episode has some powerful moments; and that the boy himself clearly shows the makings of a psychopath holds the viewer's interest. It's the grownups who are plain, with the usual general issue problems that middle class suburbanites faced back in the pre-JFK assassination (fifty years ago this day, as I write,--and it was a Friday also) early 1960s. The acting of the adult actors is decent but unexceptional, with Bradford Dillman a tad too Ivy League seeming for the character he portrays.
It's young Mickey Sholdar's performance as the bad boy that shines. He was a gifted child actor, excellent at playing troubled kids, and To Catch a Butterfly was a good showcase for him. Somewhat ironically, a few months earlier, he played the son of troubled alcoholic father in a Route 66 episode, Hey Moth, Come Eat the Flame, in which he gave an exceptional performance, far better than the one he gives here. Young Sholdar went from a TV episode with a moth in the title to one that used a butterfly. Coincidence? Probably.
Aside from being about a disturbed kid, and the show is really about
Dillman's character, is the only element that is like BAD SEED. Credit
to Producer Director David Lowell Rich and DP Lionel Lindon for
starters. This may be Rich at his very best and the rest of his career
seems as long as it is undistinguished.
This show would never be made today for a variety of reasons. What the child does to others and what is done to him just wouldn't be done on TV or in most films. This show isn't graphic, it's just the ideas are too much for our polite society now. They were then, too, that's the whole power of it. It's really better and more realistic than THE BAD SEED--not to take anything away from what's good about that movie.
This show is good on all levels, it moves very well, has an excellent score by Lyn Murray, and has a drill scene that Brian Depalma saw before he made BODY DOUBLE.
It's extremely well written and the bad kid's dad and the good guy next door possible clichés don't exist, there is both surprise and depth to the characters, and there is a powerhouse unexpected moment that Ed Asner has that is award worthy. Dillman is good too and in interesting contrast to his bad-guy performance in his other Hitchcock hour appearance.
You might try to say that the ending of it is a bit, twee. But on a character level it's the way it should be.
Hithcock starts the show between two trees saying "Welcome to the forest primeval" Which is funny and even in an obtuse way works with the episode.
A must see episode and I'd say one of the best "disturbed" kid stories ever done on film.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
The recent tragedy in Newtown, Connecticut, a small northern Fairfield County town I grew up 10 minutes away from and still live reasonably close to, makes this 1963 episode about a deranged teen even scarier today. A young couple moves into a new house, only to find a young Jeffrey Dahmer type living next door. He starts out by stealing from them and then moves on to bigger things. Bradford Dillman and Diana Hyland are the young couple, and Ed Asner is the teen's abusive and loudmouth dad. A very good episode obviously inspired by "The Bad Seed." Not always as realistic as it might have been, which is understandable considering its target audience of the period, it still packs a hell of a punch. Highly recommended.
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