Thursday, February 4, 2016
CANON OF FILM: "THE BAD SEED"
THE BAD SEED (1956)
Director: Mervyn LeRoy
Screenplay: John Lee Mahin based on the play by Maxwell Anderson from the novel by William March
Filmbook Dictionary: Cult Movie: A personal favorite film, usually low-budget film that is undeniably flawed in some way, and also includes either a cross-genre/multi-genre scenario or some other kind of weird off-beat quality that makes the film outside of the mainstream, but still has a limited but devoted and loyal following. (Borrowed from dowse.com and improved upon by myself.)
When I was a very young UNLV film student, years ago, there was a coffee shop across the street at Tropicana off of Harmon called Cafe Espresso Roma. It's now, either a pizza place or a hookah club or something, but back when I first started college, I always wanted to go there because from what I could tell and hear, this was where all the artistic and intelligensia at the university seemed to hang out, or at least the cool artistic ones that I wanted to be apart of. I don't know if it ever actually was a place like that, but it seemed to be. Unfortunately, I never got a cup there, but one of the things they tried to do in their last days was that once a week, they would have a cult movie night, and every week they’d show a rare, weird, and sometimes rarely-seen cult film. It didn't work, but one of the films they showed curiously to me was "The Bad Seed". I kinda found this weird 'cause I never really considered it a cult movie. Actually at the time, it was taken quite seriously.
“The Bad Seed,” isn’t a film I would immediately think of as a cult film, although it hasn’t aged particularly well. The film was considered scary upon first release, but now plays almost ridiculous, and to some degree, comical. Also, for a quote, unquote “cult film,” I usually disqualify any movie that got Oscar nominations, especially in important categories, and this one got three acting nominations. That said, I have seen an episode of "Six Feet Under" where a group of gay men are lovingly watching and mocking the film and, yeah, I can see why.
Based on a blockbuster play, "The Bad Seed" was known for the daring and controversial premise that a child, a little girl, Rhoda (Patty McCormack) is in fact a vicious, sociopathic killer. The film boils down, basically, to an example of the great argument of nature vs. nurture. Are you born good or bad, or can it be taught? (I'm not sure it's a great example, but...) The mother, Christine (Nancy Kelly) is sick to begin with and hears that one of the kids at her daughter’s school has been killed by an accident. This news quickly spreads, as the entire family and a few strangers await the girl’s arrival so as to comfort her.
Well, she arrives home, and any more of the story I will not reveal, in fact I’ve already given away to many important plot points, although needless to say, she seems way less in need of comfort then any normal person would in that kind of situation. This movie is still pretty popular, a little too popular for me to believe that it qualifies as a cult film. It's obviously an early influence to films like "The Omen", and there's been periodic talks in Hollywood of making a direct remake being made for years, although this film was technically redone about 15 years ago with Macauley Culkin and titled “The Good Son.”
Yeah, it's a bit dated, but keep in mind that, while I guess we still debate Nature vs. Nurture, to some extent, psychoanalytically we're a little more evolved, but at the time it was an intriguing look at the concept early on, even if it mostly used the most direct and narrow perspectives on the concept. And of course, the ending was added on later because of the Hollywood code declaration of forcing people to have to suffer for their sins, but it actually still works really well.
Either way, whether you mock it as a campy relic of an old era, or it you still can take the situation as deadly serious, if you think Damian is the beginning of devil-children, well, even that idea came earlier, and was done with a lot more fun.
Posted by David Baruffi at 7:08 PM