DVD Review HTF REVIEW: The Bad Seed (HIGHLY RECOMMENDED).

Discussion in 'DVD' started by Herb Kane, Aug 14, 2004.

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  1. Herb Kane

    Herb Kane Screenwriter

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    [​IMG]

    The Bad Seed




    Studio: Warner Brothers
    Year: 1956
    Rated: Not Rated
    Film Length: 129 Minutes
    Aspect Ratio: 1.37:1 Academy
    Audio: DD Monaural
    Color/B&W: B&W
    Languages: English
    Subtitles: English, French & Spanish
    MSRP: $19.97
    Package: Single disc/Keepcase





    The Feature:
    On August 10th, Warner Brothers released a wave of titles that range from a once banned movie - to horror films - to classic crime drama thrillers. Slated for release, the once forbidden 1932 film, Freaks, the Bette Davis thriller Dead Ringer (1964) a double bill feature, Village Of The Damned (1960) paired with the follow up Children Of The Damned (1963) and the feature film, the 1956 classic The Bad Seed. The film was directed by Mervyn LeRoy and starred Nancy Kelly, William Hopper, Evelyn Varden and Patty McCormack. McCormack’s appearance earned her an Academy Award nomination as a Best Supporting Actress.

    Rhoda Penmark (played by Patty McCormack) is the perfect 8 year old girl complete with long golden blonde pigtails who curtsies perfectly. She’s bright and intelligent, well mannered and absolutely adorable… or so it would seem. She is an only child living with her mom, Christine Penmark (played by Nancy Kelly) and her dad, Ken Penmark (played by William Hopper), who’s a Colonel in the U.S. Air Force, who has recently shipped out to Washington D.C. on assignment leaving mother and daughter alone for the next month.

    While Rhoda was attending a school picnic, another boy Claude Daigle, suddenly drowns under mysterious circumstances. Earlier, Rhoda was upset with the boy after he recently won the school’s penmanship award, a medal she thought she should have won. In an interesting turn of events, it’s reported that Rhoda was the last person to see young Claude alive and when his body is eventually recovered, the penmanship medal he was wearing at the time of the accident has gone missing. Christine’s suspicions are heightened when she discovers the medal hidden amongst Rhoda’s belongings in her jewelry box.

    As Christine grows increasingly suspicious of her daughter’s behavior, she starts to question her about the mysterious death of their former landlady, a couple of years earlier. The elderly woman fell down a flight of stairs and succumbed to her injuries but not before promising the young girl an ornamental figurine, should something ever happen to her.

    Thankfully, Christine has her father she can turn to for advice since he’s a prized winning crime author as well as her current landlady, Monica (played by Evelyn Varden) who happens to be someone who dabbles in criminal psychology (even though she can’t spot a psychopath right in front of her face). They confirm her worst fears; a child can be capable of committing murder.

    Christine eventually discovers evidence which confirms her worst fears which proves her daughter is responsible for murder. She finds herself caught in the middle of the doing what’s right and protecting her daughter. Tension begins to mount as the caretaker of the building, LeRoy (played by Henry Jones) discovers evidence that is sure to link the young girl to the murder of the young boy. Will Christine be able to intervene in time…?

    Presumably due to Maxwell Anderson’s stage hit of the same name on which the film was based, The Bad Seed finishes up with a “curtain call”, introducing all of the actors. And interestingly enough, the film concludes with Christine spanking young Rhoda in a playful manner almost in an attempt to lighten the mood of the film and to reinforce to the viewers that they were simply having fun.

    The Feature: 4.5/5
    [​IMG][​IMG][​IMG][​IMG][​IMG]



    Video:
    What a gorgeous transfer! This is one of the nicer B&W transfers to surface recently with a velvety smooth appearance.

    Black levels were satisfactory (better than average), while whites were exceptionally crisp and clean. The level of grayscale was excellent, falling just short of perfection. Shadow detail was very good and contrast levels seemed appropriate.

    Image detail was terrific, displaying a nicely defined image throughout with only occasional signs of softness. There was only a slight amount of fine film grain present in what amounted to a nice film-like presentation. During a couple of the close-ups, you could see just how smooth the image was – velvety smooth.

    There were only a couple of instances where dust or dirt became noticeable and scratches were also kept to a bare minimum. My only real negative comment was the amount of light speckle that was present, but even that is really more of a nitpick than a legitimate concern. The image was rock solid and didn’t suffer any jitter or shimmer.

    Thankfully, there were no compression errors nor were there any signs of edge enhancement.

    I was pretty impressed with this transfer – great job!

    Video: 4.5/5
    [​IMG][​IMG][​IMG][​IMG][​IMG]



    Audio:
    The film is presented in its original DD monaural soundtrack which also does an admirable job and is virtually flawless.

    Thankfully, the track is immaculate, free of any hiss or other distracting cracks or pops. The tonal quality of the entire track is natural, never becoming edgy or harsh. Virtually the entire film is dialogue driven which was always exceptionally bold and always clear and intelligible. There is some occasional scoring that accompanies the film but never becomes intruding or competitive.

    The dynamic range of the track is, as expected, thin but good given the inherent limitations of the period.

    A very nice job!

    Audio: 4/5
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    Special Features:
    The disc includes three special features starting with:
    [*] A Commentary by Patty McCormack and Charles Busch is a rather informal effort and one of the more down to earth commentaries you’ll hear which is structured more along the lines of an interview. Busch’s enthusiasm is contagious as he claims The Bad Seed is a film favorite. Here, we learn a lot about McCormack's experience during the film as well as other great tidbits relating to the production of the movie.
    [*] Enfant Terrible: A Conversation with Patty McCormack. Is a short feature with the star of the film who offers up her recollections of starring in the initial play which eventually led to the film. She also discusses her appreciation for the role that was responsible for her career that followed, such as it was. Patty is fairly candid with her comments and looks great as she approaches 60 years. Duration: 15:09 minutes.
    [*] And finally the Theatrical Trailer is included which is a pretty nice shape. Duration: 3:20 minutes.

    Special Features: 3.5/5
    [​IMG][​IMG][​IMG][​IMG]

    **Special Features rated for the quality of supplements, not the quantity**



    Final Thoughts:
    To say The Bad Seed was years ahead of its time would the understatement of the year. In a genre that has become totally reliant on shock, gore, and music, The Bad Seed is none of that. It’s an extremely clever and well written horror film that spends it entirety developing its characters - not to mention, the acting which is absolutely superb. There is no one hiding behind doors or under beds, yet the film achieves a sense of tension that many films today cannot successfully equal.

    Complemented with an interesting group of special features and given a transfer that is spectacular, fans of this classic film or fans of classics in general, should waste no time picking up this disc. The film is terrific and I can’t recommend this disc enough.

    Overall Rating: 4.5/5 (not an average)
    [​IMG][​IMG][​IMG][​IMG][​IMG]


    Highly Recommended…!!!




    Release Date: August 10th, 2004
     
  2. EricSchulz

    EricSchulz Producer

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    Herb, I am SO envious of you! What a great batch of releases you got to review this week! All are on my "to rent/buy" list!
     
  3. David Von Pein

    David Von Pein Producer

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    Fabulous! Great to hear this. Thanks Herb. [​IMG] [​IMG]

    However, I think way too much of the film's great plot is being given away in this HTF review. Many people might be getting this DVD having never before seen this 1956 gem on TV or via the prior VHS releases. Too many spoilers are revealed above for these first-timers, IMO. I think "spoiler tags" should be included in all film reviews when talking about the plot specifically. Anyone else agree?
     
  4. TonyD

    TonyD Who do we think I am?
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    yep great movie.
    but alittle too much is revealed of the movie in this review.
     
  5. Todd Robertson

    Todd Robertson Second Unit

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    yeah...picked this up on the day of release....it was my #2 most wanted film on dvd. i'm so happy the transfer did it's job. what a great film and a childhhod fave since seeing it back as a kid in the early 70's.

    now...if the same love can happen for my #1 needed film....The Other...from 1972.
     
  6. EricSchulz

    EricSchulz Producer

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    I know the very basic plotline, but I skipped over the review to avoid knowing too much ahead of time...just like I am avoiding the Open Water thread until I see the movie.
     
  7. Jefferson

    Jefferson Supporting Actor

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    Cant wait to pick it up.

    I'm curious...
    does the "disclaimer" appear at the end of the film?
    When they used to show this on television,
    sometimes they would edit it out.

    It is a short statement urging viewers
    not to reveal the ending of this most unique picture,
    or some such...

    The vhs version included it,
    but removed the musical underscoring.

    I'm wondering if the dvd includes it,
    and whether or not the musical underscore is present?
     
  8. ArthurMy

    ArthurMy Supporting Actor

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    Yes, the disclaimer is there, accompanied by the music if I remember correctly (watched it a week ago).
     
  9. Robert Crawford

    Robert Crawford Moderator
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    A great film that Warner did proud with this recent dvd release.[​IMG]







    Crawdaddy
     
  10. Jeff_HR

    Jeff_HR Producer

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    I enjoyed the interview with Patty McCormack. It was interesting to hear her talk about her experiences with this story as a play & a film.
     
  11. EricSchulz

    EricSchulz Producer

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    Just got done watching this and that statement is right on the money! If only all b/w films could look nearly this good.
     
  12. Jefferson

    Jefferson Supporting Actor

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    Got it!
    The dvd looks great.
    The interview,
    and the commentary were very interesting and enjoyable.

    I have a vhs of a tvprint of BAD SEED that has
    musical underscore under the "written disclaimer" at the
    very end of the film (which i mentioned above),
    yet the dvd does not have the underscore,
    it is silent..
    Not sure why.
     

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