Blu-ray Review: Bad Ronald

A 1974 made-for-television movie directed by Buzz Kulik, Bad Ronald is based on a book by the same name by Jack Vance. Ronald Wilby (Scott Jacoby, The Little Girl Who Lives Down the Lane) is a socially inept, awkward high school sophomore with budding artistic talent and a preoccupation with fantasy. He is tasked with looking after his sickly mother (Kim Hunter, The Kent Chronicles), who hopes he will become a doctor and cure her illness. One afternoon at a pool party with his peers, he decides to ask pretty Laurie Mathews (Shelley Spurlock) out on a date. Rejected and mocked by the others, he heads home. On the way there, he runs into a young girl on a bike named Carol (Angela Hoffman). She insults both him and his mother. Ronald grabs her and demands an apology; she falls and hits her head on a cinder block, dying immediately. Ronald buries her in a shallow grave and heads home to tell his mom, who’s less than impressed.

Mom decides that the best thing to do is board up and cover over the extra bathroom on the main floor, so Ronald can hide out there whenever people are around. The plan is to have Ronald lay low for a few months until the case blows over. When the police, led by a Sgt. Lynch (John Larch), pay mom a visit and produce Ronald’s dirty jacket found at the scene of the crime, she plays dumb, telling them that Ronald ran away from home some time ago. Soon after that, she tells Ronald she has to go into the hospital to have her gallbladder removed; it’s a trip she never returns from.

Soon, another family buys the home and moves in; completely unaware they have a tenant. As time goes on, Ronald has an increasingly difficult time distinguishing between his fantasy world and the real world. Growing progressively stranger, he drills holes in the walls, so he can spy on the home’s inhabitants. The homes new owners have three daughters; Ronald soon develops a crush on the middle one, Althea (Cindy Eilbacher). Determined to learn more, Ronald slowly works up the courage to leave the room. First, to get some food from the fridge and then to read the eldest girl’s diary. Eventually, Ronald decides it’s time to show Althea his brand of love…

The seventies were really the golden age of television movies. Some great films with horror themes made their debuts: Duel, helmed by a young Steven Spielberg, The Night Stalker and Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark, just to name a few. A mix of Crawlspace and Psycho, Bad Ronald moves at a brisk pace that doesn’t give the audience time to be bored. Things get increasingly creepier as Ronald begins to look just as crazy as he’s acting. He starts drawing baroque figures on the walls and it’s clear he’s lost his sense of reality.

If the script does have a flaw, it’s that the story never really explains why Ronald is the way he is. What was Ronald like before the incident with the girl on the bike? We are privy to the fact that other kids at school made fun of him and his mother was overbearing, but that doesn’t really explain why he would accidentally kill a little girl and bury her in a shallow grave.

Despite that, Bad Ronald is an enjoyable movie for fans of the genre. The always enjoyable Kim Hunter does a great job as the “slightly left of center” mother and Scott Jacoby is thoroughly convincing as the increasingly creepier Ronald. While the films flaws keep it from achieving ‘classic’ status, fans will welcome Bad Ronald’s arrival on Blu-ray.

Presented in its original 1.33:1 aspect ratio, Warner Archive has done a nice job bringing this TV movie to high definition. The print is amazingly clean and clear. Free of any damage, the image looks crisp throughout, with a proper amount of grain to give the proceedings a film- like appearance. The visuals far exceed anything that would have been broadcast on network television in 1974.

The DTS-HD MA 2.0 soundtrack has been cleaned of any pops, ticks, or distortions. Though the eras audio limitations mean an obvious lack of dynamic range. Dialogue is clean, clear and concise throughout. English SDH subtitles are included.

There are no extras available.

Movie title: Bad Ronald (1974)

Director(s): Buzz Kulik

Actor(s): Scott Jacoby , Pippa Scott , John Larch , Dabney Coleman , Kim Hunter , John Fiedler

Genre: Horror, Mystery, Thriller

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