Tuesday, November 6, 2018

BAD RONALD (1974) (Warner Archive Blu-ray Review)

Label: Warner Archive
Region Code: A
Rating: Unrated
Duration: 74 Minutes
Audio: English DTS HD-Master Audio 2.0 Mono with Optional English Subtitles
Video: 1080p HD Full Frame (1.33:1)
Director: Buzz Kulik
Cast: Scott Jacoby, Kim Hunter, Pippa Scott, John Larch, Dabney Coleman, John Fiedler, Lisa Eilbacher, Roger Aaron Brown

Early 70's made-for-TV terror Bad Ronald (1974) stars Scott Jacoby (The Little Girl Who Lives Down The Lane) as awkward teenager Ronald Wiby who lives in a deteriorating Victorian house with his overprotective mum, Elaine (Kim Hunter, Two Evil Eyes). On the day of his 18th birthday he asks a popular girl out to the movies but is rebuffed and ridiculed by her friends and brother. On his way home after the rejection he runs into Elaine's younger sister, she makes the mistake of calling him a weirdo and trash talking his mom, angered he loses his temper and shoves her to the ground, she strikes her head on a cinder block and dies, it was an accident but he panics and buries the girl's body. Running home he tells his mom about what's happened she immediately realizes the optics of this are not good, deciding in the heat of the moment that they must wall off the downstairs bathroom and create a hidden room for him to hide in before the cops arrive. 

The secret room has a hidden door in the kitchen pantry, Ronald stays in the room while his mom tells the police that he's run away from home and she doesn't know where he has gone. The plan is that as soon as everything blows over - when exactly does murder in a small town blow over? -  they will relocate somewhere else and begin again. While Ronald is hidden away in his room his mother goes to the hospital for an emergency gall bladder surgery, but she dies unexpectedly during the procedure, leaving Ronald alone in the house. Now alone he slacks off from his studies and becomes more and more obsessed with a fantasy world he created, he calls it of Atrena, believing himself to be a noble knight.  Not long after a new family movies into the house, the Woods family are father (Dabney Coleman, Cloak And Dagger), mother (Pippa Scott) and three attractive, blond teen daughters.

Ronald peeps on the family through spy-holes he's drilled into the walls of his closed-off room, becoming increasingly obsessed with the youngest daughter Babs (Cindy Fisher, Beyond Death's Door) whom he believes to be the princess in his made up fantasy world, he having become increasingly separated from reality in his own little world. The Woods begin notcing subtle oddities around the house, they hear strange noises in the house, food starts disappearing, and things seem misplaced, they feel like they're being haunted, unaware that a deranged stranger is hiding within the walls of their home. 

Bad Ronald is a fairly successful as a made-for-TV, hider in the house, sort of film, it's certainly flawed but still has a weird charm. The story of Ronald and his mother takes up over half the film, and then she's gone for good, with a brief period of time when he's left on his own prior to the Woods buying the house. The amount of time that's passed is hard to discern, establishing the passage of time might have helped develop/shape his character as increasingly deranged. As it is we see that he's drawn a few elaborate wall sized posters, so there's been time, but how much we aren't privy to. He emerges from his hideaway every once in a while, but careful to avoid the watchful eye of nosey-neighbor Mrs. Schumacher (Linda Watkins, From Hell It Came) who comes snooping around now again. The movie seemingly paints Ronald in a sympathetic light, but when the parents leave the house for a weekend getaway he makes a move on the object of his obsession, which doesn't go so well, and doesn't paint him in a kind light either, leaving you to sort of root for the undeveloped Woods. 

Audio/Video: Bad Ronald (1974) debuts on Blu-ray from Warner Archive with a brand new 2K scan from an interpostive, presented in the original full frame 1.33:1 aspect ratio, as it was originally broadcast on TV. The 1080p image is finely detailed with nice depth and clarity, the textures of the vintage wallpaper come through nicely as do clothing fabrics and strands of hair. Grain is present but not overpowering, and colors are nicely saturated and black levels are solid,a very nice presentation.

Audio comes by way of an English DTS-HD MA Mono 2.0 that sounds fine, clean and well-balanced, though not the most fidelic presentation. The film has a score from Fred Karlin (Westworld) that sounds good if unremarkable, optional English subtitles are provided. 

There are no extra whatsoever for this release, the previous DVD was also bare bones, and as it was TV movie there's no trailer to speak of, but there must be some TV spots somewhere out there. This would have been a great opportunity to get author/podcaster Amanda Reyes, co-author of 'Are You In The House Alone: A TV Movie Compendium  1964-1999' to do a track about the film. She did just appear on an episode of the Warner Archive Podcast to chat about the film and other TV movies though, I highly recommend you check it out, and tune into her own podcast Made For TV Mayhem, well worth a listen! 

70's TV terror Bad Ronald (1972) has some made-for-TV flaws, but it still manages to conjure up some good tension, weirdness and claustrophobic atmosphere, even with it's flaws I think this is a gem of a TV terror, and the new Blu-ray from Warner Archive looks fantastic. 


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