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Mervyn Leroy
Eileen Heckart, Nancy Kelly, Patty McCormack, Henry Jones, Evelyn Varden
Writing Credits:
John Lee Mahin, Maxwell Anderson (play), William March (novel)

What would you do if you were cursed with "The Bad Seed"?

A single mother discovers that within her seemingly angelic daughter beats the heart of a cold-blooded serial murderer. One woman must make a terrible decision about the daughter she loves and desperately wants to protect in this classic thriller.

Box Office:
$1 million.

Rated NR

Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1
English Monaural
Supplements Subtitles:

Runtime: 129 min.
Price: $19.98
Release Date: 10/11/2011

• Audio Commentary with Actor Patty McCormack and Actor/Playwright Charles Busch
• “Enfant Terrible: A Conversation with Patty McCormack” Featurette
• Trailer


Panasonic 50" TH-50PZ77U 1080p Plasma Monitor; Sony STR-DG1200 7.1 Channel Receiver; Panasonic DMP-BD60K Blu-Ray Player using HDMI outputs; Michael Green Revolution Cinema 6i Speakers (all five); Kenwood 1050SW 150-watt Subwoofer.


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The Bad Seed [Blu-Ray] (1956)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (March 21, 2012)

You know a movie is a strong part of the popular culture when its title turns into a commonly-used phrase. That’s what happened with 1956’s The Bad Seed, a book-adapted-to-play-adapted-to-film. 55 years later, people still refer to problem kids as “bad seeds”, so the flick boasts enduring life in that way.

But does it still fare well as a movie? Not really. It lives as a camp classic, but I can’t even see its appeal in that area.

When Colonel Kenneth Penmark (William Hopper) gets a temporary transfer to Washington, he leaves behind his wife Christine (Nancy Kelly) and eight-year-old daughter Rhoda (Patty McCormack). On the surface, the tidy and proper Rhoda would appear to be the perfect child, but Christine suspects something darker may reside beneath the surface.

One hint occurs when a classmate of Rhoda’s suddenly drowns during a class picnic. By seeming coincidence, this was the same boy who won a penmanship medal Rhoda thought she deserved. Rhoda was the last person to see the child alive, and she’d tailed him all day in an attempt to steal the medal. Did Rhoda kill the boy due to her medal-related envy? Does she have other evil inside her?

Seed firmly finds itself in the psychological thriller vein, as it presents virtually no overt violence or horror. We hear of awful events but don’t actually see them.

That allows a potential sense of mystery, especially as it impacts Christine. We’re left to determine whether she’s reading too much into events or if her daughter’s as heinous as she fears.

That’s a good premise for a story, but Seed shows its age in a negative way. The film comes grounded heavily in the psychoanalysis popular during the era. This was the same period that produced Three Faces of Eve, another flick that latched itself onto psychological theories to the exclusion of almost all else.

Perhaps I shouldn’t say “almost all else” here, as Seed includes many moments that fall into a more traditional thriller vein. However, on a few occasions, it grinds to a complete halt so characters can debate psychological theories. The movie suffers from plenty of awkward exposition in other sequences, but these segments become the weakest. An already-sluggish tale stops in its tracks to “educate” the public – and kill a promising movie.

Not that those scenes are the only thing that harms Seed. It’s over-written and overly melodramatic at best, and the performances seem literally laughable. As noted, Seed adapted a stage play, and some of the actors reprised their roles from those productions. Apparently no one told them that they didn’t need to project as much when on screen, for most behave as though they must ensure that the folks in the cheap seats can hear them.

Worst of the bunch? Nancy Kelly’s absurdly overwrought take on Christine. How in the world did Kelly get an Oscar nomination for her performance? She’s unintentionally hilarious as she moans and mopes through the whole film. Kelly’s work veers far into parody territory much of the time.

Which is what endears the movie to its main modern audience: fans of camp. Although I can enjoy some campiness, I can’t find much here from which I can derive enjoyment. Too long, too silly and too dated, The Bad Seed is a dud.

The Blu-ray Grades: Picture C/ Audio C+/ Bonus C+

The Bad Seed appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 1.85:1 on this Blu-Ray Disc. The film came with an erratic transfer.

Sharpness was the area with the most obvious inconsistencies. Some shots looked quite crisp and distinctive, but more than a few came across as fuzzy and ill-defined. I saw no pattern to these trends; the softness affected interiors and exteriors without any form of logic. Jagged edges and moiré effects remained absent, and I saw no signs of edge haloes or artifacting.

With a natural – and non-intrusive – layer of grain on display, I discerned no problematic digital noise reduction, and source flaws weren’t a factor. The film remained clean and clear,

Blacks were fairly deep and dark, but contrast could be erratic. Most of the film featured a good sense of shadows, but some scenes could appear a little too bright. That wasn’t a big concern, though. The general softness was the major problem here and the reason the image earned a “C”.

As for the monaural soundtrack of Seed, it seemed fine for its age. Speech could be a little brittle, but the lines were always intelligible and reasonably warm. Music showed decent to good range and clarity; the score displayed more than adequate vivacity.

Effects sounded acceptable. This wasn’t a movie that presented much more than general ambience, so the track didn’t have much to do, but these elements were reasonably clean and distinctive. Source problems weren’t a concern, as the mix lacked distractions. Given the limitations of the original material, I felt this was a more than adequate soundtrack.

A handful of extras finish the set. We open with an audio commentary from actor Patty McCormack and stage actor/director/playwright Charles Busch. What does Busch have to do with Bad Seed? Absolutely nothing other than interest as a fan; self-proclaimed “drag legend” Busch serves as a representative of the movie’s cult fan base who adore it for camp value. Busch sits with McCormack for a running, screen-specific chat in which she offers thoughts about cast and crew, the stage play and its adaptation, aspects of her role and performance, sets and locations, other elements of her life and career, and a mix of connected topics.

Though it peters out a bit during the film’s second half, this was usually a good chat – surprisingly good, in fact. I worried that Busch’s presence would mean a catty, campy view of the film, but he actually serves as a solid moderator; he represents the fan base well and ensures that the conversation goes smoothly. McCormack throws ina nice mix of notes that help make this a useful and engaging piece.

In addition to the film’s trailer, we find a featurette called Enfant Terrible: A Conversation with Patty McCormack. It lasts 15 minutes, 10 seconds as McCormack discusses her career as a child, auditioning for the original Bad Seed play and her work in it, shooting the film, thoughts about cast and crew as well as the movie’s legacy. I worried McCormack would repeat a lot of the same material from the commentary, but she manages a lot of fresh musings here. That makes the interview worth a look.

While it could’ve become a searing psychological thriller, The Bad Seed gets bogged down in slow storytelling, awkward exposition and hammy performances. The Blu-ray comes with erratic visuals, decent audio and a couple of interesting supplements. Neither the movie nor the Blu-ray impress.

Viewer Film Ratings: 2 Stars Number of Votes: 1
0 3:
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