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Reviews » DVD Video Reviews » Bad Ronald
Bad Ronald
Warner Bros. // Unrated // August 18, 2009
List Price: $19.99 [Buy now and save at Wbshop]
Review by Ian Jane | posted August 25, 2009 | E-mail the Author
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The Movie:

Directed by Buzz Kulik, the director who also made Crawlspace, a movie that Bad Ronald has a fair bit in common with, this 1974 made for TV movie stars a young Scott Jacoby as the titular Ronald, a nerdy kid who lives in a creaky old Victorian era house with his overbearing mother (Kim Hunter, sans the ape mask). When Ronald finishes his birthday dinner with mom, he heads out to visit a pretty blonde he knows from school but after being made fun of, he's turned away. On the way back home he runs into a young girl on a bike named Carol (Angela Hoffman). She teases him and makes fun of his mother and Ronald flips out and pushes her. Carol's head hits a brick and she dies on the spot. Rather than go to the cops, Ronald decides to bury her and head home to tell his mom about the whole ordeal.

Not particularly pleased with her son's recent extracurricular activities, she decides that the best course of action is to board up and cover over the extra bathroom on the main floor so that Ronald can hide out there whenever people are around. This will allow them to still live together and at the same time ensure the authorities don't find out where Ronald is at. The cops, lead by Sergeant Lynch (John Larch), pay mom a visit and produce Ronald's dirty jacket which they found at the scene of the crime, but she plays dumb and tells them her son has run away. After the cops disappear, Ronald's mother tells him she has to go have her gull bladder out and will be leaving him alone for a week while she goes to the hospital. This is a trip from which she never returns, however, and before you know it a family has bought the home and moved in, having no idea that murderous Ronald has been living secretly in the hidden bathroom all this time, writing and drawing his fantasy book and sneaking around undercover of the darkness. Ronald soon begins having difficulty telling the difference between the fantasy world he's created in his head and the real world where he shares a home with complete strangers and before you know it, he's crushing on one of the family daughters, Althea (Cindy Eilbacher), drilling holes in the walls to peer at people, and acting progressively stranger...

An entertaining enough mix of Crawlspace and Psycho, Kulik's seventy-one minute film is a tightly paced piece that moves along quickly enough and features some genuinely eerie moments and imagery. As Ronald begins to cover his hidden sanctuary with all manner of bizarre drawings from his fantasy world his physical appearance becomes increasingly disheveled to the point where in the later part of the film he looks as crazy as he's acting. The film also toys with the ideas of abandonment - how is it that the world has just completely forgotten about this poor dude? Did the cops just give up? Does Ronald not have any other relatives who, after his mother's passing, might show some concern for his whereabouts or well being?

One problem with the script is that you don't really get a feel for what Ronald was life before the incident that caused all of his grief. There doesn't appear to have been much of a past history of violence, which makes his sudden freak out a bit out of character for him when you consider that most kids have to endure far harsher teasing than what he's subjected to in the movie. Granted, it's in keeping with his bizarre pseudo-Oedipus complex but a bit more background on Ronald's quirks and characteristics would have gone a long way towards fleshing out his character and giving his subsequent actions more impact.

Those issues aside, Bad Ronald is decent enough entertainment. Kim Hunter is quite good as the overbearing Mrs. Bates type and Scott Jacoby does a fine job playing the reclusive and strange Ronald. Dabney Coleman as the patriarch of the family that moves into the house, is decent enough and the rest of the cast are all fine. The movie is competently shot with some nice, and at times even striking, camera work. Thriller fans will dig the film and while its flaws will keep it from ever being designated 'classic status' it's not a bad little b-movie.

The Video:

Bad Ronald is presented in its original 1.33.1 fullframe aspect ratio in a transfer that is, unfortunately, interlaced. Colors look a bit on the faded side and there's a bit of dirt and debris that is periodically noticeable on the picture but the image is perfectly watchable even if it's never really very impressive. Detail won't blow you away and that picture is generally fairly soft but at least the disc is authored well enough in that there aren't any compression artifacts or edge enhancement distractions or issues to note.

The Audio:

The no frills English language Dolby Digital Mono soundtrack is a bit on the muffled side and while the levels are fairly consistent in how they're balanced, you'll have to turn the volume up to understand what's being said in a few spots. There aren't any problems with hiss or distortion, but this track doesn't have the clarity you'd hope for and while, sure, it's a low budget seventies made for TV movie, it should have sounded better than this.

The Extras:

Aside from a very basic menu and chapter selection (spaced at ten minute intervals) this release is completely barebones.


While it may be derivative and even a bit problematic in the script department, Bad Ronald has still got some creepy atmosphere and a good lead performance working in its favor and making it worth a look. The Warner Archives DVD-R won't blow you away in terms of quality and it's a little spendy for a barebones release, but the movie holds up well and this is currently the only way to see it. Recommended for fans, a decent rental for everyone else.

Ian lives in NYC with his wife where he writes for DVD Talk, runs Rock! Shock! Pop!. He likes NYC a lot, even if it is expensive and loud.

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