Before there was Damien, there was Rhoda.
The Bad Seed, based on the stage play of the same name, made its way onto the big screen in 1956, and garnered itself 4 Oscar nominations, 3 for acting, and 1 for cinematography.
The story focuses on a mother’s descent into madness, spurred on by the love of her daughter, who is definitely more than she seems to be.
Nancy Kelly plays Christine Penmark who begins to suspect that her daughter, who seems so perfect, outwardly, may be capable of cold-blooded murder.
Patty McCormack plays Rhoda, and is wonderfully disturbing in her performance, especially since you know what this little girl is going into the film. Watching the way she manipulates everyone around her, father, mother, neighbors, into thinking she’s the most wonderful little girl, is a little freaky, but the caretaker has his suspicions, because even he plays at being something he’s not.
In terms of performances, sometimes, yes, it can descend into what seems like melodrama, but one has to remember that the culture and times influenced scripts, acting, pacing and film-making in general so of course it feels like a different animal.
Despite that the story still holds up incredibly well, and perhaps in some way is more relevant today.
Because what would you do if you suspected your child was not only capable of cold-blooded murder, but had done it, and seemed none to upset by having committed it, and more than willing to do it again?
It presents the idea that perhaps these things are hereditary, not necessarily something I ascribe to, but where can behavior like that spring from when a child is raised in a seemingly perfect loving home and family?
This movie, culled from the 101 Horror Movies is genuinely creepy, especially in the scene where little Rhoda practices her piano, all while drowning out the screams of a burning man and her mother loses her mind before deciding to set out on a final course of action…