Sugar and spice and everything nice. That's what little girls are made of. Apparently they never met Rhoda Penmark, played deliciously by Patty McCormack. Think Cindy Brady with a psychotic streak! That's what this little girl is made of. The Bad Seed is one heck of a ride even in our day and age as it takes an unflinching look at a disturbing subject.
The story centers on sweet, little Rhoda whom her mother suspects may be a cold blooded killer. McCormack is amazing as Rhoda and may have given us the scariest little girl ever seen on screen. [Linda Blair from The Exorcist was a teenager so she is out of the running for the prize!] Nancy Kelly is also wonderful as Rhoda's mother, Christine. The scenes of the two of them together are simply movie magic, even if Kelly is a bit over the top at times. You really care about both of them and are immediately sucked into their drama.
The supporting cast is excellent as well. Evelyn Varden plays chatty Aunt Monica who seems oblivious to her niece's sociopathic tendencies. Eileen Heckart is hilarious as the drunken mother, Hortense Daigle, whose son died during a school field trip and suspects that Rhoda killed him. This movie is definitely a feast of women's roles but I also have to mention the magnificent performance of Henry Jones who plays the Penmark's handyman, Leroy Jessup. He is the first to see little Rhoda for who she really is.
Kudos to John Lee Mahim who effectively adapted the screenplay from the original play and to director Mervyn LeRoy who keeps the action humming along. The Bad Seed was nominated for four Oscars including Best Actress, two Best Supporting Actress and Best Cinematography. As far as I'm concerned it should have won all four! [O.K. I have to admit it's hard to beat Ingrid Bergman [Anastasia] but Patty McCormack was robbed.] What more need to be said? This is 1950's horror at its best. A true classic.
For more info check out the film's entry in IMDB.