The Bad Seed is a 1956 movie that is rather unusual in that it works very well in several diverse genres. It is a drama, a mystery, and a suspense thriller. The title character is Rhoda Penmark (played by Patty McCormack), a cute little blonde girl with pigtails, who wears pretty bows and frilly dresses. Oh, and she’s also a sociopathic serial killer who knows no remorse.

The main character in the movie is Rhoda’s mother, Christine (Nancy Kelly). After a classmate of Rhoda’s is killed--seemingly by accident--during a field trip, it comes to light that the boy was in the midst of a quarrel with Rhoda. Bit by bit, Christine realizes that this isn’t the first mysterious death among Rhoda’s acquaintances, and she begins to suspect that there might be something horrifyingly wrong with her daughter. This drives her to research her own genealogy in the hopes of discovering the origin of Rhoda’s disturbing behavioral pattern, and the secrets she uncovers will haunt her for the rest of her life.

Nancy Kelly and Patty McCormack both turn in excellent performances in this film, as do a variety of supporting performers. The film is in black and white and runs just over two hours. The film specifically requests that viewers not divulge the details of the finale, so I will comply with that request.

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