Sunday, February 3, 2008

Bad Ronald (1974)

I have dug this damn movie since I first saw it back in the 1970s. In essence, it's just your run-of-the-mill "Movie Of The Week" style television flick with some familiar faces and a rather low-budget vibe. On paper, nothing special. But this adaption of John Vance's novel (of the same name) hinges on the performance of one of the decade's best teen thespians, Scott Jacoby.

Jacoby shines as awkward misfit Ronald Wilby--an intellectual geek and bigtime mama's boy who yearns to fit in with the "cool" teens in his neighborhood---in particular, the annoyingly egomaniacal ingenue Laurie Mathews (Shelley Spurlock) and her band of snotty friends.

When Ronald dresses up in his awful clothes and shows up in Laurie's yard to try and ask her out he's met with a less than enthusiastic reaction. As it happens, she's chillaxin' by the pool with her rotten friends as our hero decides to make his move. The positively satanic girl and her hellish cohorts slamdunk Ronald's pride as savagely as Darryl "Chocolate Thunder" Dawkins used to do back in the day when he was shattering all those backboards. Ronald leaves the pool party a broken man.

This is when our distraught young anti-Christ runs into Laurie's sixth grader-ish younger sister Carol (Angela Hoffman) who gladly continues haranguing this four-eyed time bomb.

"She only likes football players...and besides--you're weird, Ronald!"

You got it, sis! But Ronald, clearly, has reached his limit for tolerating snide comments for the afternoon. He picks up the pint-sized pain in the ass by her scrawny neck and smashes her dopey little head into a handy cinder block. So, it's lights out for the loud lass, but Ronald has so much life left to live!

The bespectacled boy wonder goes home and breaks the news to his super wacky Mom (Kim Hunter a.k.a. Zira from "The Planet of the Apes") who decides that Junior should move into a backroom in the house (that they board up) so that "no one will know" the pimply killer is still in the house. Almost unbelievably, this silly ruse fools the cops completely. And Ronald is left to go increasingly nuttier as he spends all his time in his room pretending that the bizarre fairy tales he dreams up in his twisted mind are actual reality.

But tragedy strikes when Big Bad Mama goes into the hospital for an operation and never comes out. This leaves Ronnie Baby in a real pickle, but conveniently it's not long before a new family (headed by an ultra-laidback Dabney Coleman!) moves in with a trio of foxy mini-skirted daughters...Ronald sets his sights on the youngest gal, Babs (Cindy Fisher), and manages to work her into his sicko fairy tale plotline.

Anyway, there's more but I will let you check it out for yourselves. Director Buzz Kulik does a good job of straddling the line between '70s network television banality and a genuine psychological thriller. And Jacoby and Kim Hunter make this eccentric little movie well worth a look.

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