Night Child (1972)

aka Diabolica malicia, What the Peeper Saw
Article 4735 by Dave Sindelar
Directed by James Kelley and Andrea Bianchi
Featuring Mark Lester, Britt Ekland, Hardy Kruger
Country: Spain / UK / Italy / West Germany

A woman marries a man whose previous wife died two years before. Upon meeting the man’s son, she becomes convinced that there is something disturbing going on in the household… or is she the one who is disturbed?

My DVD gave me the option of watching either the U.S. theatrical version of the movie (which runs 72 minutes) or the uncut original version (which runs 95 minutes). I opted for the latter, of course, but I would like to point out that the shortened version of the movie is missing nearly a quarter of the footage. Though I don’t care for censorship, I do understand why it happens, and when your movie has unambiguously as its central plot element the sexual relationship between a precocious 12 year old boy and his 22-year old stepmother, you know someone’s going to take some scissors to it somewhere. I also wouldn’t be surprised to find out that the shorter version is a confusing mess, though I can’t say so for sure at this time. Overall, the movie is a variation on THE BAD SEED, though it does attempt to be more psychologically penetrating than that one was; the boy is indeed disturbed, but neither the father nor the stepmother are well-adjusted either, and the stepmother takes so many questionable actions during the course of the movie that she hardly ends up coming across as the heroine. Fortunately, the movie is more interesting than exploitative, though I did get a little worried towards the end of the movie when it starts trotting out surreal fantasy sequences reflecting one character’s thoughts; fortunately, it gets back on track. Still, this is pretty edgy subject matter, and the passage of time has probably only made it moreso.


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