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Forgotten Horrors: Bad Ronald by ED Tucker
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Back in 1974, calling something a “made for television” movie could actually be taken as a compliment. Unlike most of the sludge indiscriminately pawned off on the cable networks these days, movies from this era were actually required to have decent scripts and moderate production values. These films may have lacked some of the more extreme moments of their theatrical counterparts but they were also first run entertainment for free in the privacy of your own home. Since they were created for the small screen of the 70’s, the content was probably a mild PG at worst, so these films were also suitable for most members of the family.
Bad Ronald is a perfect example of these types of films. The story is a strange little tale of a strange little teenager named Ronald Wilby. He would probably be a perfect date for Sissy Spacek’s Carrie White character (from 1976’s Carrie). They both live in old Victorian style houses with their overbearing mothers and both are social outcasts among their peers. They also have problems interacting with the world outside their isolated homes that ultimately culminate in acts of violence.
Ronald's attempt at the Vulcan Mind Meld has disasterous results!
Old house's have large mice!
A short time later, Dabney Coleman, his wife and three daughters, who resemble the female portion of The Brady Bunch, buy the creepy old house with the intention of fixing it up. By this point, Ronald’s loose grasp on reality has slipped almost completely and he has retreated into a fantasy world he originally created as an illustrated story. The new family and the oldest daughter’s boyfriend become the characters of his tale until he makes the mistake of trying to interact with them.
Ronald might do better with the ladies if he washed more often.
As an artist, Ronald is his own worst critic.
Clocking in at a tight 74 minutes (making it a perfect candidate for half of the old three hour double features the networks would sometimes run), Bad Ronald doesn’t overstay it’s welcome or give the audience time to ask too many questions. The film could have probably benefited from some additional character development, especially where Ronald’s history and the new family are concerned, and some more explicit violence but it still manages to maintain a good eerie vibe for its entire running time. Bad Ronald was recently made available in a no frills DVD edition from the Warner Archives Collection and is worth picking up as an example of this defunct genre.
"Retrorama" is ©2010 by ED Tucker. Webpage design and all graphics herein (except where otherwise noted) are creations of Nolan B. Canova. All contents of Nolan's Pop Culture Review are ©2010 by Nolan B. Canova.