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devincf

Episode 96: THE BAD SEED

  

76 members have voted

  1. 1. Is THE BAD SEED Canon?

    • Yes!
      44
    • Let it lay in a bed of excelsior
      32


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Solid no for me. It's not a bad movie, it's fine and I'm glad I saw it, but I don't see anything that elevates it to Canon status

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I'm having a hard time putting my finger on just why I didn't love this one. I thought it was good enough, Mrs. Daigle almost makes it Canon worthy all on her own, but I just can't get very excited about it making it into the Canon. I think my biggest problem is with the ending; not necessarily killing Rhoda, but the tacked-on feeling that it has after what could have been a pretty chilling end with the reveal that Rhoda survived. The pop-psychology bothered me a bit too; each of those scenes struck me as slightly pedantic and really killed the momentum. I'm glad I watched it (my favorite episodes are the ones on the lesser known movies that I've never seen), but I have to go with no this week.

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I'm not sure where I land, here. I really enjoy this movie, I think it'd be a good addition to The Canon, for the most part, but there's one big sticking point for me--that goddamned ending. I hate this ending. Completely undermines the creepiness, and is structurally awkward at that, given that it plays out as though the film ends and then another coupe minutes is added on. And I realize that it's very much tacked on to appease censors, which makes it difficult. It doesn't seem like there's been an "alternate" or "real" version released, so this all comes down to the question of how much the viewer should engage with a film--ie, is it okay to just turn a movie off and pretend it ended correctly if some bullshit got added on? I dunno if I can do that. And this ending *really* does undermine the film in a pretty deep way, I'd say. I kinda want to see what some others think.

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I'm still not sure how to vote on this one. I enjoyed the movie, but not sure it's quite a GREAT film on its own terms (likeThe King of Comedy is), and I don't see that it's had a huge cultural legacy (like, say, Wrath of Khan does). I'll wait to read more arguments in the thread here to see if I can be swayed.

 

I'm not buying Amy's argument for why this film makes better use of the camera than Wrath of Khan does. I think that film makes just as much use of the background/foreground stuff she referenced for The Bad Seed, though at times it's more of a left side/right side divide, owing to the more modern widescreen 2.35:1 frame.

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I'm not sure where I land, here. I really enjoy this movie, I think it'd be a good addition to The Canon, for the most part, but there's one big sticking point for me--that goddamned ending. I hate this ending. Completely undermines the creepiness, and is structurally awkward at that, given that it plays out as though the film ends and then another coupe minutes is added on. And I realize that it's very much tacked on to appease censors, which makes it difficult. It doesn't seem like there's been an "alternate" or "real" version released, so this all comes down to the question of how much the viewer should engage with a film--ie, is it okay to just turn a movie off and pretend it ended correctly if some bullshit got added on? I dunno if I can do that. And this ending *really* does undermine the film in a pretty deep way, I'd say. I kinda want to see what some others think.

Yep completely agree- the time this film was made in has completely nullified any kind of interesting theme the film brings up.

 

I do love these thrillers from the 1950's where they discuss criminal psychology like it's some kind of magic (Psycho, Spellbound); like I think most people voting, I'm glad I watched it, but it's more of an interesting time capsule watch than anything else.

Soft no.

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This would definitely be canon for me with a little (a lot) of editing. I feel like this would have been a great 90 minute movie, but too many scenes, however well acted, ran two or three times too long (specifically with Leroy and Mrs. Daigle) to the point of tedium for me.

 

Loved the wacky ending(s), though.

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It was enjoyable, but it's not an all-time great. There's no cultural resonance, and that ending does discount it quite a bit. Also, EXCELSIOR.

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This was a pretty easy yes. I buy the arguments, and I, like Devin, happened to catch it a long time ago on television and maybe wouldn't have gotten to it for a while. That said, I'm glad I had a chance to revisit it. This is a terrific film, and is totally canon-worthy.

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Yep completely agree- the time this film was made in has completely nullified any kind of interesting theme the film brings up.

 

I do love these thrillers from the 1950's where they discuss criminal psychology like it's some kind of magic (Psycho, Spellbound); like I think most people voting, I'm glad I watched it, but it's more of an interesting time capsule watch than anything else.

Soft no.

 

 

The more I think on it, the more I'm inclined to lean no, as well. This is one of those movies you're gonna come across if you have any interest in genre, anyway, so I don't think it needs to be enshrined as Canon, given how unsatisfying it's rendered by the ending. I mean, if the girl had lived and the mom had failed and died, or the mom succeeded in killing her beloved daughter, I could go either way, but this wishy-washy thematically-inappropriate happy-ending bullshit is a real downer.

Which other killer kid movies could make contenders, though? My personal favorite would be Jaume Collet-Serra's Orphan, which...I could maybe muster an argument for Canon? But maybe it's a bit too recent for all that.

The most obvious contender would be The Omen, I guess, but that's another movie where I have a real problem with the ending.

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Completely undermines the creepiness, and is structurally awkward at that, given that it plays out as though the film ends and then another coupe minutes is added on.

 

It's right up there with the egregious tacked-on endings to the original "The Invasion of the Body Snatchers," Murnau's "The Last Laugh" and Fritz Lang's "Fury" in the canon of endings that ruin the film. The only solution is to stop the film at the moment it should have ended and pretend that the rest doesn't exist.

 

Not sure where I fall on this one either, but Rhoda is one of the most terrifying villains in classic Hollywood film, right up there with Gene Tierney's character in "Leave Her to Heaven."

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I feel really wishy-washy about this one. I find it really interesting and frustrating at the same time, and like everyone else says the ending really undermines the whole thing. There's a lot of entertaining stuff here. The pseudo-psychology is an interesting artifact, but it begins to feel heavy handed. There are quite a few monologues that feel more like they're running out the clock than serving the story.

 

It's definitely a fun little movie, but I'm going to trust my ambivalence and give it a soft no.

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I think if this had more of a cultural impact I'd be more swayed to vote yes. As it stands, this was just a pretty good movie that I'd never heard of. I'm not mad at it, but I don't think it's canon material. It's a no from me.

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You know... I feel compelled to root for the underdog here.

 

I'm with Devin and Amy on this: The Bad Seed might not necessarily be the greatest movie of its kind, but I'll be damned if it isn't a perfect avatar of the pre-self aware, irony-free camp. It's a camp we're sorely missing nowadays, and we need more of its kind. The ending is jarring, sure, but it's the kind of jarring that could only have come from the strange and weirdly one-track mindsets of 50's filmmaking.

 

Besides, you have to give Patty McCormack so many props. It's difficult enough for child actors to affect a cool and creepy performance like this, and she pulls it off so well she sort of set the bar for creepy children in fiction in general. Well, at least before the twins from The Shining or Damien from The Omen came along- but it still counts for something.

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Ah, wonderful... An opportunity to be a Wikipenis!

 

"Scuppernong" is the first native grape cultivated in the colonies for juice, food, and wine. There is still a 400-year-old "Mother Vine" growing on Roanoke Island in North Carolina and the grape is the official state fruit of NC.

 

I know I'm an immigrant to North Carolina because I hate scuppernong jam and wine. It can make a lovely arbor though.

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I'm not gonna pretend I don't love a lot of the films we've put in of this nature, but we have so many boy movies in the canon that The Bad Seed is as good as, or better than. I know someone's going to try to argue the egalitarian side of things, and that a movie shouldn't be put into the canon based off of other movies in the canon, except it's been established that this is a representative canon. We don't have a film like The Bad Seed in the canon. Is it the very best? Maybe not, but it's close. And, above all, it's good enough for canonization. We have lots of schlocky horror movies for boys in the canon. Couldn't we have at least one for girls, at least for the time being?

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I'm voting yes for this one. I've always wanted see this film after listening to John Waters talk endlessly about it, and this episode has finally given me an excuse to watch it. I agree with everyone that this kind of genuine camp is sorely needed these days. The most recent film I can think of that comes the closest to actual camp would have to be Paul Verhoeven's Showgirls. Ever since then, nobody seems particularly interested in camp films.

 

Anyway, I loved this film. It was wonderfully creepy and Patty McCormick did an outstanding job. I'll remember her Rhoda as one of the best movie villains I've ever seen. I agree that the tacked on ending does pretty much undermine the whole thing, similar to the tacked on ending to the original Invasion of the Body Snatchers, but in a weird way I kind of loved it. It was so ridiculous and over the top that it was kind of brilliant. Like Rhoda was so evil for this world the very forces of nature had to step in and take her out!

 

Anyway, I'm voting yes on the grounds of McCormick's performance and because the film's an excellent entry in the campy melodrama subgenre despite, or maybe because of, its flaws.

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Oh yeah, one other thing. The first movie I ever saw that I remember having a curtain call is the original Predator and like The Bad Seed, it just seemed so weird to me. I had just seen all these cast members get brutally slaughtered by some invisible alien hunter and now here they all were, laughing and smiling directly at the camera. Just a bizarre addition but something that is strangely charming.

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One argument in favor of this film as a cultural marker is that its name is used to describe a category of film. You can walk in and pitch a film by saying "it's a Bad Seed movie" and everybody knows what you're talking about.

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I agree. I do feel like it kicked off the "evil kid" genre. Probably no Exorcist, Chucky, Shining Twins, Babadook, etc. without the book / play / movie.

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I settled on a No vote. I don't think it quite clears the bar.

 

But if I'm being completely honest, part of this choice was because the voting was close to 50/50 with the "No" side trailing slightly, so I felt like evening it up a bit. This seems like the film that should perfectly split the vote.

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I'm voting yes, in part because this movie had a life-long impact on my mom.

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Great episode. I'm no Dr. Nicholson so I can't tell you what a real Rhoda might suffer from—but in the 1950s,(apologies if you already know this) all this selfish, spoiling, bad mother (or in the case of Monica, maternal figure) stuff, especially put next to "feeble-mindedness" and easily manipulated men, has a lot to do with the ideas about psychology and parenting in Philip Wylie's Generation of Vipers, a book whose analysis has a lot to do also with Rebel Without a Cause, Psycho, and probably every other example of pop-abnormal-psych cinema from the 1950s. (Wylie also maybe had something to do with inspiring Superman, so, you know, his fingerprints could be in a lot of places.)

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I liked this movie a good deal, but it's not quite canonical. Nothing spectacular about the directing, the play is no Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf (or Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, as was pointed out). The child actor is good, but I don't think in the running for best. You brought up the camp angle, but it's no Whatever Happened to Baby Jane. Rhoda is an early psychopath, but I don't know if she really stands out that much among the gallery of movie psychopaths.

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So I voted no. The movie is not quite in my sweet spot enough to put it over the top into the Canon.

 

That said, I enjoyed the re-watch, and I have to say this might have been the first time the discussion almost pushed my vote the other direction. You all made a lot of really great points and it was fun to hear you guys break the movie down in the context of the evil kid genre.

 

I kind of wish this had been a versus episode with Mommie Dearest. While I like evil kid movies too, I think there's a ton of problematic projection going on in a lot of movies where adults are ascribing grown up motivations to kids whose brains really aren't developed enough to totally get what they're doing. And you see a lot of shitty abusive parents project their own anxieties upon what their kids are doing and use that as an excuse to inflict emotional and physical abuse. And I think Mommie Dearest serves as a similarly camp contrast to the evil kid story and provides an easy breezy point of comparison to something like The Bad Seed.

 

All that is to say, I bet Joan Crawford really loved the fuck out of The Bad Seed.

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