Friday, November 08, 2002


A Nazi version of THE BAD SEED! At the time, this movie might have seemed different or daring with its depiction of a child warped by indoctrination in the Nazi philosophy, but it dates rather badly, and it doesn't feel much more daring than if an Andy Hardy movie had tackled the same issue. Fredric March brings his young German nephew over to the USA to live with (and hopefully to assimilate with) his whitebread midwestern American family. The problem is that the kid (Skip Homeier) is a full-blooded Nazi at the age of twelve. Homeier struggles throughout with a trumped-up, phony sounding accent and a look that never feels very dangerous. Had the character been a little older, his bullying villainy might have been more effective. It takes a while for March to realize how Nazified the boy really is; he was brainwashed to believe that his heroic father was a traitor and a suicide when he really died in a concentration camp. Betty Field is the Jewish girlfriend of March, who tries to be understanding, and Joan Carroll is March's daughter. She's not bad; she has more to do here than she did as Margaret O'Brien's older sister in MEET ME IN ST. LOUIS. Most of the household (even the German maid) wises up to the kid, and his only "ally" is Agnes Moorehead, playing another bitter spinster aunt, who resents March's upcoming marriage.

Despite pulling knives, stealing keys, and threatening some children, Homeier never really feels "evil." In fact, I kept thinking that, like the bizarre encore scene in THE BAD SEED, all he really needed was a good spanking. Even at the climax, when he attacks someone from behind and we're led to believe he might have committed murder, the resolution is way too pat and bloodless. The anti-climactic finale feels an awful lot like the heartwarming sitcom resolutions we're used to in the average family TV show. It was based on a play, and its stage origins are obvious--it could use a little more directorial style. There is a lot of propaganda about American tolerance for minorities, which rings a little hollow nowadays, and in the end, it's not a terribly compelling movie.

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