Child’s Play (1972)

CHILD’S PLAY (1972)
Article 2322 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 8-4-2007
Posting Date: 12-22-2007
Directed by Sidney Lumet
Featuring James Mason, Robert Preston, Beau Bridges

There has been an alarming increase in violent incidents at a Catholic boy’s school. At the same time, a new gym teacher finds himself caught up in a feud between two of the teachers, one who staunchly takes the side of the boys and the other, a tyrannical Latin teacher.

No, this movie has nothing to do with the Chucky the killer doll movies that came much later. In fact, it could be argued that this movie is not a horror film at all; it’s certainly not a conventional one. Nonetheless, I do think it falls into horror; there is a palpable and unsettling dread at the eruptions of violence that crop up in the movie, and many of the boys seem thoroughly dehumanized. What keeps it up in the air a bit is that the movie is a bit ambiguous as to exactly what type of evil we’re dealing with; there is definitely some evil here, but it may be distinctly human. At any rate, I found this one quite fascinating and compelling, though I do feel it is a bit flawed. It’s at least partially a mystery, and at least one of the mysteries has to do with the degree to which the Latin teacher’s paranoid fantasies are just that. Unfortunately, if your instincts for plotting are in gear, you should figure out that mystery long before the revelations at the end of the movie. The performances are strong from all concerned, but James Mason as the Latin teacher (who can say more about how his character is feeling with body language than many actors could do with pages of dialogue) is the standout. Nevertheless, the movie has a lukewarm reputation, and the movie has the real potential to alienate the viewer. The ambiguities at the end of the movie may also leave the viewer somewhat unsatisfied.

 

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