Cast and Crew: Mervyn LeRoy (Directory); Paul Fix, Henry Jones
What It’s About: Rhoda (Patty McCormack) appears to be a perfect child. She is a prim-and-proper kind of girl who prefers a nice dress to blue jeans and sneakers; she gets good marks in school; she appears to love and respect her parents Christine (Nancy Kelly) and Col. Kenneth Penmark (William Hopper). She says all the right things, keeping her parents’ building owner Monica Breedlove (Evelyn Varden) firmly wrapped around her finger. When the Air Force reassigns Colonel Penmark to Washington, and a classmate of Rhoda’s drowns under mysterious circumstances, Christine begins to question exactly how much of her daughter’s perfection is merely a facade…..
Why Watch it Today?: Doctor Benjamin Spock was born today in 1903. Spock’s ideas, including avoiding traditional corporeal punishment and more flexible parenting were hugely influential and popular, but a backlash was not long in coming, with concerns that parents were being too liberal. It’s no surprise that in this uneasy environment a horror story (first a novel, then a play, then a film) featuring a child who is simply wrong somehow would be extremely popular. The Bad Seed was the first, and in many ways the best, of the thriller/horror sub-genre featuring evil children.
Where to Get It: Your local library, Netflix, iTunes or Amazon
And it’s still my favorite, Children of the Damned be…well, damned. I could never put my finger on my problem with François Truffaut until I read his review of this flick in The Films in My Life. He called it “a useless movie…designed to please the snobs” because he loved childhood as only the Frenchman can, with their high ambient levels of Romanticism. It’s all about Patty McCormack for me. She could sell Evil Kid to the United Federation of Planets.
As much as I dug Children of the Damned,I think the fact that you get just one evil child here, portrayed perfectly by McCormack, who is not evil because she is alien, but because she just is, makes it much more effective. I actually like a lot of the French directors of the 1960s, but so far what I’ve seen of Truffaut’s work-The 400 Blows, Jules Et Jim and Farneheit 451 has not impressed me. Also, the idea that THIS movie is meant for snobs, as opposed to The 400 Blows astounds me.