Monday, July 18, 2011

Psycopath* (for Psychopath*)

Many Americans tried to maintain a decorous distance from the tawdry TV that's been constituting the Trial of the Century for the last month or so, but lately it seems that resistance may be futile. Whether you believe there ought to be a law against this kind of coverage, or find it to be a guilty pleasure, at a minimum—like any good prison it's pretty hard to escape. Even that genteel escape from reality shows, Turner Classic Movies, appeared to be giving the "Tot Mom" tale its devilish due, by airing in the wee hours of the morning on Saturday the chilling, campy, and altogether disturbing 1956 horror flick The Bad Seed. I blogged about this film a few months ago, but in the wake of the viral verdict last week down in Florida, it's begging to be brought up all over again, allowed to hog the spotlight just a little bit longer. Patty McCormack plays Rhoda, "a parent's worst nightmare"—one's own child a murderer. Except, of course, for that other worst nightmare, the murder of one's own child. Nancy Kelly and Eileen Heckart exquisitely portray this excruciating equivalence as the two grieving mothers striving to get a kernel of truth out of the Bad Seed. The movie's sugar-coated tension mounts inexorably to a climax, but the final moment is arguably its best—a denouement comprising humor, humanity, and, ironically enough, the only instance of "violence" depicted on-screen throughout the entire film. There was evidence of nine cases of Psycopath* in OhioLINK and 142 in WorldCat.

(Warner Bros. poster of The Bad Seed, from Wikipedia.)

Carol Reidight

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