Bad Ronald

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Bad Ronald
1974 | 74 minutes
Starring Scott Jacoby, Pippa Scott, John Larch, Dabney Coleman, Kim Hunter
Directed by Buzz Kulik

Returning home from being rejected at a schoolmate’s pool party, social pariah Ronald (Scott Jacoby) vents his frustration on a taunting young girl, accidentally killing her. Rather than having her son turn himself into the police, Ronald’s controlling mother (Kim Hunter) quickly devises an ingenious solution: Why not wall up the downstairs bathroom and have Ronald continue to live secretly at home, safely hidden in his cubby?

All goes well—with Ronald studying and exercising in his tiny new home, sharing meals with his mother through the crawlspace entry in the pantry–until she checks into the hospital for a routine operation. Ronald discovers the news of her death when he overhears a realtor discussing the potential sale of the house. When a new couple (Dabney Coleman, Kim Hunter) and their daughters move in, Ronald slips more and more into a self-created fantasy realm, while continuing to live in his secret hideaway and watching the new family’s activities through various peepholes drilled in the walls.

Although more sympathetic than the moniker would suggest, Bad Ronald delivers a grubby sort of creepiness, more unsettling than terrifying. A picked-on outcast guilty of manslaughter rather than a cold-blooded murderer, Ronald mostly plays a passive role, particularly in the subsequent death of his nosy neighbor. He only takes action against those he spies upon when his isolation-driven fantasy world bleeds into his reality. Until then, Ronald exists as a corporeal phantom, tapping into the queasiness of breached privacy and violated personal space.

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5 thoughts on “Bad Ronald

  1. I’ve been trying to get ahold of this film for ages, but I can’t seem to find a quality DVD copy at a reasonable price. I really like the premise, I’m a sucker for weird psychological stuff and disturbed main characters, but I’ve had no luck so far. Where did you get it?

    • Warner Brothers released it some time back as part of its DVD-R “Archive Collection”, a bare-bones but serviceable copy. You can probably still find it online, and I’m sure it’s preferable to watching an uploaded YouTube version.

      • Thanks! 🙂 Is the audio poor-quality? Because I have so much trouble with background noise in movies that I usually turn close-captioning on, and if the audio quality is really grainy and the dialogue is hard to understand I’m not sure it’s worth it.

      • I don’t recall any particular audio issues, but the Warner release is probably as good as it is going to get for this title. Unfortunately, most of the made-for-TV horrors of this era will never receive a decent, let alone, deluxe treatment. I would love to see a DVD/Blu-Ray company like Code Red, who does a great job with other retro cult and horror titles, get their hands on the entire 1970s ABC Movie-of-the-Week catalogue. Even Trilogy of Terror, probably the best known of the bunch, has a no-frills DVD—if it’s still even in print.

      • LOL, my dad’s best friend told me once at a get together that the devil doll that terrorizes Karen Black in “Trilogy of Terror” terrified him as a kid. 😛 Thanks, I might need to invest in a copy of “Bad Ronald” in the near future. 🙂

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