#141 The Bad Seed

Watched: November 1 2017

Director: Mervyn LeRoy

Starring: Nancy Kelly, Patty McCormack, Henry Jones, Evelyn Varden, Eileen Heckart

Year: 1956

Runtime: 2h 9min

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8 year old Rhoda Penmark (McCormack) is a prim and proper young lady who is a bit spoiled and very straightforward. Her father and neighbours think the world of her, especially landlady Monica Breedlove (Varden), but her mother Christine (Kelly) has noticed a more sinister side to her daughter; she has an explosive temper and is possibly the worst loser in history.

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“Another kid has better handwriting than me! My life is over!”

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When Rhoda fails to win a school prize for penmanship, she does not take it well. Later, at a school picnic, the boy who beat her accidentally drowns. Christine becomes suspicious when she then finds the boy’s missing medal among her daughter’s precious things…

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By precious things, we mean serial killer trophies

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While Christine suspects her daughter may not be quite normal, handyman Leroy (Jones) recognizes exactly what she is – he sees himself in her. He’s too confident in his own supremacy though, so he confronts the child and teases her. Big mistake! She may be tiny and young, but Rhoda is also vicious and resourceful.

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Lesson: never confront a suspected killer, no matter how cute their pigtails are

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The Bad Seed holds up very well, despite the many “evil child”-films which have come since its release. Patty McCormack is perfect as Rhoda – alternating between sweet and deadly effortlessly.

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Mama should have known something was wrong looking into those eyes…

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We loved Monica the Landlady and her psychoanalytical friends, and the crazy and manipulative Rhoda. The film is long and melodramatic, with lots of sitting room exposition (it’s based on a play), but it is also very creepy and engaging. The Freudian influence is very evident, especially when it comes to the (many) weirdly intense parent-child relationships. Or perhaps that’s just how parents and children interacted in the ’50s.

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You know, with poison…

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What we learned: Don’t have kids!

Next time: The Killing (1956)

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#48 The Wizard of Oz

Watched: October 02 2016

Director: Victor Fleming, Mervyn LeRoy, King Vidor, George Cukor, Norman Taurog (clearly, it takes a village…)

Starring: Judy Garland, Frank Morgan, Ray Bolger, Bert Lahr, Jack Haley, Margaret Hamilton, Billie Burke, the Munchkins

Year: 1939

Runtime: 1h 42min

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Really? Do you really need a recap of this? OK, fine, let’s sum it up.

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Girl kills woman and takes her shoes as trophy (in her defense, they’re very pretty)

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Girl goes on adventure/quest with new friends

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Girl is chased by mutant minions of sister of first murder victim. She goes on to also kill the sister.

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Her enemies now slain, the pink, poofy witch finally lets girl go home to her own family

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We love it!

What we learned: there’s no place like home. Also, we do NOT trust that smug bitch Glinda.

Next time: Fantasia (1940)

#17 Little Caesar

Watched: August 15 2016

Director: Mervyn LeRoy

Starring: Edward G. Robinson, Douglas Fairbanks Jr, Glenda Farrell

Year: 1931

Runtime: 1h 18min

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The first gangster film on the list, and what a film! The lingo! The voices! The faces! The incredible nicknames! Killer Peppi, Scabby, Diamond Pete, Kid Bean, and of course Little Caesar himself: together they rule the underworld.

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And they look darned dapper when they do

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The plot revolves around the titular character (Robinson) – an ambitious young bastard who through hubris and ruthlessness works his way up the ranks of a gang and eventually takes over their operation.

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“What are you talking about, hubris?”

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Through his quest for power, he mows down semi-innocent people and screws over quite a few of his friends (despite his motto becoming “Loyalty & Friendship”). Our hearts go out to poor Tony the Getaway Driver. (Who is referred to as a big baby. Baby Driver..?)

Meanwhile, his old friend Joe (Fairbanks) tries to move away from gangster life and instead works as a dancer with his partner and girlfriend Olga (Farrell).

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A wise career move for the costumes alone

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Little Caesar (aka Rico) will have none of it though, and continuously pressures Joe to return to gangster life. He even ropes him into assisting a robbery at his place of work. Joe, despite wanting very little to do with the newfound crime lord still has some feelings for his old friend, and he tries to warn him when he overhears another criminal plotting his assassination.

In the end, Rico’s hubris and self worship turn out to be his fatal flaws (who could have seen that coming?) and the whole operation goes down. But at least Joe and Olga become stars, which is great.

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Never has the saying “crime doesn’t pay” been illustrated more clearly

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This is a quick paced gangster film with drive by shootings, very good costumes, amazing lingo, lots of drama and great performances. And now we can’t wait to rewatch Bugsy Malone (1976) once we get to the seventies.

Things we learned: we need new nicknames.

Next time: M (1931)