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The Bad Seed (1956)
You just gotta love movies
Where to begin with? It was so delightfully campy I just couldn't help but love it.
Mervyn LeRoy, a solid director, didn't do a great job. The movie is unbelievably theatrical. Long shots, wide angles, characters walking in and out and delivering monologues. Sometimes it found it hard to believe that I was watching a film from a helmer of 'I'm a Fugitive from a Chain Gang'. But it doesn't matter. Everything here is so goofy that it's entertaining. At the beginning I thought this was going to be unwatchable - and then time after time things were happening that made my jaw drop.
How about the truly Hitchcockian line about Monica's therapies: 'She's been spread out on couches from New York to Los Angeles'? Or the scene when, talking to her father, Christine suddenly regresses into being a little girl and discreetly mimics Rhoda (wonderful acting from Nancy Kelly here - totally unrealistic but very imaginative)? Or the fact that - in that same scene - the three characters go through almost a whole decanter of gin in just seconds?
Leroy's mostly an awful character. His scenes are irritating. He talks to himself (explaining the plot), his conversations with Rhoda are way overlong - and then, out of the sudden, he gets one of best worst lines I've ever heard in a movie, the one about blue electric chairs for boys and pink electric chairs for girls. It would ruin a good movie - but it elevates a truly bad one into a masterpiece.
Some things are completely and wonderfully absurd. When little Claude drowns, Christine worries she'll have to have the Big Talk about death with Rhoda. Then we're told that they used to have a neighbor who fell to her death (so there WAS a necessity for the Big Talk before!)from a spiral staircase and Rhoda has inherited her crystal ball. Boom! Without any introduction we're given a Suspicious Story From The Past and right away we know that little Claude wasn't Rhoda's first victim.
So arbitrary. So what?
There are more endings here than in 'Return of the King'. It could end on a gunshot. Or in a hospital ('You'll ALWAYS have Rhoda'). Or when Rhoda plans sunbathing on the roof with Monica. But no, we have to wait till the lightning to see 'The End' card. And then, as I was laughing my bottom off, came the introduction of the cast and the spanking. Just wow.
People who want movies to be realistic (whatever that means), who can't suspend their disbelief, who look for good writing and technical brilliance probably won't enjoy all this. But if you love movies enough to appreciate weird, little, unintentionally funny and delightfully outrageous things scattered among the total mess of a plot or characterization - watch this one.