The Bad Seed (1956)

bad seed poster 1956 movie
9.0 Overall Score
Story: 9/10
Acting: 9/10
Visuals: 8/10

Great acting, good story, goofy so-bad-it-is-good ending

Stage plays brought to the screen are sometimes limited

Movie Info

Movie Name: The Bad Seed

Studio: Warner Bros.

Genre(s): Horror/Drama

Release Date(s): September 12, 1956

MPAA Rating: Not Rated

bad seed rhoda mother patty mccormack nancy kelly

Rhoda, dear…did you murder anyone today?

Rhoda Penmark (Patty McCormack) seems like the perfect little girl.  Long braids, polite, and always smiling, Rhoda is loved by adults.  Rhoda is hiding a secret inside of her…a rage that she is fighting to control.  When another student at her school dies, Rhoda’s mother Christine (Nancy Kelly) begins to suspect that everything she thought she knew about Rhoda was false.  Christine also begins to question her own past and if for some reason she could be responsible for Rhoda’s behavior.

Directed by Mervyn LeRoy, The Bad Seed is a horror thriller.  The film was based on the Maxwell Anderson 1954 stage play based on the novel by William March published that same year.  The film received Academy Award nominations for Best Actress (Nancy Kelly), Best Cinematography—Black and White, and two Best Supporting Actress nominations for Patty McCormack and Eileen Heckart.

The Bad Seed is the classic “evil kid” movie.  Rhoda with her pigtails and Swiss Miss look is a perfect villain because she can fool the adults around her so easily.  Over the years, the movie has gained a cult following due to its almost campy over-the-top performances and the story, but it does hold up.

bad seed rhoda leroy shoes henry jones patty mccormack

LeRoy…don’t f*!@ with me…

The movie is an interesting look at nature vs. nurture.  It questions if people can be born evil and in this film the answer is that people can be inherently evil.  Rhoda has a good home and a good life, but it is implied that something in her DNA has caused this darkness…something that was rather new for the time.

The cast is strong.  Nancy Kelly, Patty McCormack, and Eileen Heckart were part of the original stage performance of the play and seem to know their parts well.  While Nancy Kelly plays the distraught mother great (with lofty speeches and tears), it is Eileen Heckart’s chewing up of her scenes as the drunken mother who has lost a child that really scores.  Patty McCormack is perfectly evil and she plays well off of Henry Jones who plays the creepy LeRoy who can see through her act while still coming off as rather lecherous.

bad seed rhoda patty mccormack matches

Nope…not being devious whatsoever

It is hard to talk about The Bad Seed film without talking about the ending.  A ******Spoiler Alert****** is applied to the end of the review.  The original Bad Seed story had Rhoda’s mother trying to kill Rhoda with sleeping pills and killing herself.  Rhoda was saved and continues on her evil ways.  The play also kept this ending, but when the movie was made, censors didn’t feel that Rhoda should get away with the “evil” she did.  They instead had Rhoda’s mother survive a gunshot to the head and Rhoda killed by lightning as she searched for the medal for which she murdered.  As if that change wasn’t enough, during the credits where they show the cast, Rhoda receives a spanking from her mother for all that she has done.  It is weird and doesn’t make sense, but it is part of why the movie is fun.

The Bad Seed is one of those cult campy classics that is a must see.  It has tons of quotable lines and genuinely creepy little villain.  There were a couple of unofficial sequels to The Bad Seed play made with Patty McCormack reprising her role as Rhoda in the 1990s with an adult Rhoda with children of her own in Mommy (1995) and Mommy’s Day (1997).  In 1985, the film was also remade and was faithful to the original ending, but still the original holds strong.  The Bad Seed is a fun filmb and it is definitely worth a basket of kisses.

Author: JPRoscoe View all posts by
Follow me on Twitter/Instagram/Letterboxd @JPRoscoe76! Loves all things pop-culture especially if it has a bit of a counter-culture twist. Plays video games (basically from the start when a neighbor brought home an Atari 2600), comic loving (for almost 30 years), and a true critic of movies. Enjoys the art house but also isn't afraid to let in one or two popular movies at the same time.

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