The Bad Seed (1956)

The Bad Seed (1956) is a thriller which follows Christine (Nancy Kelly) as she discovers that her only child, Rhoda (Patty McCormack), has some hereditary disorder which makes her daughter remorseless. Rhoda will stop at nothing (including murder) to get what she desires.

The Bad Seed
is based on Maxwell Anderson’s 1954 Broadway hit of the same name, and employs most of the play’s principal actors. Unfortunately, the actors bring broad gestures with them from the stage (which tend to look overwrought on the big screen), making this thriller unintentionally funny.

Eileen Heckart as Mrs. Daigle (the mother of one of Rhoda's victims), practically steals the show with only two scenes. Half drunk, yet somehow lucid, Mrs. Daigle investigates when no one else seems able or willing to discover what really happened to her son.

Henry Jones, as the maintenance man with the mind of a child, is a perfect foil for little Rhoda. He constantly tries to outsmart Rhoda and frighten her, but the little girl has the mind of a gangster.

Evelyn Varden as Monica Breedlove, the amateur psychologist next door, is a perfectly foul and funny snob.

The problem with all this craziness is that there should be someone who is sensible, a job that falls to Christine. However, the mother is just as kooky as the rest with her odd pauses, weird wailing and, in one scene, repeatedly slamming the back of her hand on the table.

It's one of those movies to watch on a rainy afternoon when you want a good laugh.

Here's the original NYTimes review from 1956.


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