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The Bad Seed (1956)

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A housewife suspects that her seemingly perfect eight year-old daughter is a heartless killer.

Director:

Mervyn LeRoy

Writers:

John Lee Mahin (screenplay), Maxwell Anderson (play) | 1 more credit »
Reviews
Nominated for 4 Oscars. Another 1 win & 1 nomination. See more awards »

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Cast

Complete credited cast:
Nancy Kelly ... Christine Penmark
Patty McCormack ... Rhoda Penmark
Henry Jones ... Leroy Jessup
Eileen Heckart ... Hortense Daigle
Evelyn Varden ... Monica Breedlove
William Hopper ... Col. Kenneth Penmark
Paul Fix ... Richard Bravo
Jesse White ... Emory Wages
Gage Clarke ... Reginald 'Reggie' Tasker
Joan Croydon Joan Croydon ... Claudia Fern (as Joan Croyden)
Frank Cady ... Henry Daigle
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Storyline

Christine Penmark seems to have it all: a lovely home, a loving husband and the most "perfect" daughter in the world. But since childhood, Christine has suffered from the most terrible recurring nightmare. And her "perfect" daughter's accomplishments include lying, theft and possibly much, much worse. Only Christine knows the truth about her daughter and only Christine's father knows the truth about her nightmare. Written by A.L.Beneteau <albl@inforamp.net>

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis

Taglines:

For little Rhoda, murder is child's play. See more »


Certificate:

Approved | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

View content advisory »
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Details

Country:

USA

Language:

English

Release Date:

12 September 1956 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

The Bad Seed See more »

Filming Locations:

Burbank, California, USA See more »

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Box Office

Budget:

$1,000,000 (estimated)
See more on IMDbPro »

Company Credits

Production Co:

Warner Bros. See more »
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Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

Mono (RCA Sound Recording)

Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
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Did You Know?

Trivia

The book Rhoda claims to have won in Sunday School, "Elsie Dinsmore," was a story with religious themes about a pious eight-year-old who, in sharp contrast to Rhoda, was obedient to her elders to an alarming point, even enduring verbal abuse from a nasty parent. It was written by Martha Finley in 1867. See more »

Goofs

When Rhoda and Leroy are talking outside, she is working on a puzzle. When Rhoda is facing Leroy, the pieces to the puzzle are on the table, but when Leroy is facing Rhoda, the pieces are not there. When it goes back to Rhoda, the pieces are again outside the puzzle. See more »

Quotes

Leroy: You ask me and I say you don't even feel sorry for what happened to that little boy.
Rhoda: Why should I feel sorry? It was Claude Daigle who got drowned, not me!
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Crazy Credits

After the finale, a narrator tells the audience "One moment please. And now our wonderful cast." Then, the principal cast members are introduced one by one, like they would be at the end of a play. After that's done with, there's a brief scene in which Nancy Kelly spanks Patty McCormack. See more »


Soundtracks

Au clair de la lune
(uncredited)
Attributed to Jean-Baptiste Lully
Played on the piano by Patty McCormack and whistled by Henry Jones
Played often in the score
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Frequently Asked Questions

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User Reviews

 
Assured portrayals of real characters in an amazingly chilling film!
5 May 2006 | by The_VoidSee all my reviews

What we have here is a fantastic classic horror film, which benefits from great performances from all concerned and a plot not typical of serial killer films. The film doesn't adhere to convention and builds its story around an idea that was frightening for the time - and still is to this day. The murderer in this film is as evil as any other; the only difference being that here the killings are committed by a decidedly amoral child. The film presents a good portrait of its star, as it presents its ideas very much from a child's point of view. The young girl doesn't see what she's doing as wrong as she is always given a reason to pass on the blame for wrongdoings, and this always comes across in a plausible way. The plot surrounding the atrocities is even more interesting than the central idea, as we follow the torment inflicted on the girl's mother. The situation that Christine Penmark finds herself in is the stuff of nightmares; just what can you do if you find that your eight year old child has committed murder? The Bad Seed makes excellent use of this dilemma, and the fact that it's incredibly easy to buy into the plot ensures that The Bad Seed prevails as an potently chilling film.

The film is based on a stage play by Maxwell Anderson, and this comes across often as the film takes place in just a few settings and the whole thing is very stagy. This is, however, to its benefit; as the locations make the whole piece more claustrophobic, and the fact that we don't see the murders themselves benefits the film immensely as it allows the audience to spend more time considering the implications; which are what the film is actually about. The main reason why this film works so well is down to a great performance by talented child actor Patricia McCormack. McCormack presents a portrayal that finds exactly the right pitch between the sweet and innocent youngster that she appears; and the dark persona that lies just beneath her exterior. Nancy Kelly similarly gives a defining performance as her tortured mother, and excellently puts across a torrent of emotion. The acting is typically melodramatic, but all the cast somehow manage to keep their acting down to earth. Every scene in the movie is perfectly pitched and nothing is wasted as we are continually taught more about the characters and their situations. The climax to the film is fabulously poetic, despite being implemented on the producer's orders and overall, I really don't see much wrong with this film. Highly recommended!


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