The Bad Seed

From Spanking Art

Post-credits scene added to The Bad Seed.

The Bad Seed is a movie from 1956, directed by Mervyn LeRoy. It is based on the horror novel of the same title by William March, published in 1954.

"The Bad Seed" was also made into a television movie in 1985.


The central character of the story is Christine Penmark (Nancy Kelly), a young mother who finds out that her eight-year-old daughter, Rhoda, is a murderer. Prompted by strange dreams and her landlady's dalliance in psychiatric theories, Christine begins to wonder if she's an adopted child. She eventually figures out that she is actually the sole surviving daughter of "The Incomparable Bessie Denker," a well-known (fictional) serial killer.

Spoiler warning

Rhoda looks angelic and innocent, but is evil at its worst. She is portrayed as a psychopath, although the term was not in use at the time of the book. Like her grandmother, she has no conscience and will kill if necessary to get whatever she wants, whether that be a penmanship medal she felt she should have won, the silence of a janitor who knows more than she wants him to or the desire to possess an opal pendant. By the time Christine manages to put the truth together, Rhoda has already killed three people (the old lady who was going to leave her a snowglobe, Claude Daigle, and Leroy the janitor) and one puppy. An adept manipulator, she can easily charm adults while eliciting fear and repulsion from other children who can sense something wrong with her.

Once her mother has come to the correct conclusions, she has to wrestle with a terrible dilemma. As young as Rhoda is, there are no guarantees that any arrangements made to confine her will prove permanent, and there would be a huge glare of publicity. At the same time, Christine knows full well that Rhoda will certainly kill again and again. Christine solves her problems by giving Rhoda a lethal dose of sleeping pills and then committing suicide.

The end of the movie is different from the novel. In the novel, Christine dies, but Rhoda survives the sleeping pills and is alive and well when the story ends. In the 1956 movie, Rhoda is struck and killed by lightning when she goes back to the scene of her crime to retrieve the medal, while Christine survives her suicide attempt.

The spanking scene[edit]

Externally hosted image on Handprints: Drawings Gallery #44
Still from the spanking scene.

Externally hosted image on Handprints: Drawings Gallery #44
Stills from the spanking scene.

At the very end of the movie, the actors are introduced. Every actor and actress, when introduced, shows in the doorway and smiles into the camera, Christine Penmark (Nancy Kelly) being the last. She then discovers Rhoda (Patty McCormick) who is sitting on the living room couch. Wagging her finger at the girl, she says "And as for you..." and walks towards her. Taking a seat next to her on the couch, she pulls Patty over her lap and begins to spank the girl. Fade out.

This closing scene gives the otherwise dark movie a light-hearted, humorous ending. The spanking is given over the seat of Patty's dress. Both actresses seem to almost laugh before the spanking. When it begins though, Patty cries out "No, no!", is kicking her legs and tries to cover her bottom with her hands. Nancy Kelly visibly enjoys the twist.

See also[edit]


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