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Based upon the play by Maxwell Anderson (which was taken from the William March novel) THE BAD SEED ($20) is an enjoyable stage melodrama that was only opened up slightly in its cinematic incarnation. The story of a sociopathic child, who hides behind the façade of being a perfect little girl, tells of one Rhoda Penmark (Patty McCormack), who lives with her mother Christine (Nancy Kelly) and her oft away military father Kenneth (William Hopper). A crack in the façade appears after Rhoda loses a penmanship medal to a schoolmate named Claude Daigle, which leaves the girl infuriated. Then, at a school picnic Claude Daigle is found drowned… suspicion falls on Rhoda after Christine discovers the penmanship medal amongst the girl’s possessions. Eventually, Christine pieces together that her daughter is a remorseless killer, incapable of any real human feeling.

With THE BAD SEED, director Mervyn LeRoy maintains much of the staginess of a play, keeping the action limited to a few sets, while focusing on the actors and their sometimes-overwrought, stage-like performances. Even with the staginess, THE BAD SEED still packs quite an entertaining wallop. Patty McCormack was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress for her performance as the angel faced, sociopath murderess. Nancy Kelly also received a Best Actress nomination as the put upon mother, driven to extremes by the knowledge that she is raising an evil child. Eileen Heckart also garnered a Best Supporting Actress nomination as the grieving mother of the murdered boy. Henry Jones also turns in a superior performance as the slightly twisted janitor who recognizes Rhoda for exactly what she is. The cast of THE BAD SEED also features Evelyn Varden, Paul Fix, Jesse White, Gage Clarke, Joan Croydon and Frank Cady.

Warner Home Video has made THE BAD SEED available on Blu-ray Disc in a 1.78:1 aspect ratio presentation that has been encoded onto the disc with the AVC codec. The 1080p black and white presentation is quite nice, but has some limiting factors due to the film’s original production techniques. THE BAD SEED relies on many optical fades & dissolves, which add a generation or more to the image and soften things for long stretches. Once the movie cuts back to shots without opticals, the image becomes stronger, more detailed and more fully resolved. There are some very nice looking sequences along the way, but too much of the film’s editing relies on optical fades and dissolves. Blacks are deep and white are crisp. Contrast is generally strong, but does have issues that are also attributable to optical fades and dissolves. The elements from which THE BAD SEED has been mastered do show some minor imperfections. Grain is ever present, but maintains the film-like character of the presentation.

THE BAD SEED is presented on Blu-ray Disc with a 1 channel DTS-HD Master Audio soundtrack. Although the track is lossless, the sound is constrained by age and the nature of the monaural production. Effects can sound a bit thin in places, but as THE BAD SEED is essentially a talky, stage melodrama, there aren’t all that many sound effects that come into play. Still, the lossless soundtrack does boost the character of Alex North’s score. Dialogue is crisply rendered and generally easy to understand. No other language tracks have been included on the disc, but English, French and Spanish subtitles are provided.

The interactive menu gives one access to the standard scene selection and set up features, as well as couple of supplements, which have been ported from the DVD release. Starting things off is a is a running Audio Commentary with Patty McCormack and Charles Busch. Next is Enfant Terrible: A Conversation With Patty McCormack, which runs for fifteen minutes and features the actress discussing the stage and film versions of THE BAD SEED.

THE BAD SEED is an enjoyable, yet stagey, filmic rendering of the play. The Blu-ray offers pretty good quality, but is limited by the film’s original production techniques. Recommended.


Bad Seed [Blu-ray] (1956)


DVD & Blu-ray Disc reviews are Copyright © 2011 THE CINEMA LASER and may not be copied or reprinted without the written consent of the publisher.
THE CINEMA LASER is written, edited and published by Derek M. Germano.



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