Christine Penmark has a loving husband and a picture-perfect daughter named Rhoda. Christine knows that Rhoda can be stubborn and greedy and a bit of a kiss-up, but that's not all that worries her after a classmate dies at a school picnic...the boy had just won a medal that Rhoda wanted. A lot.
This movie was considered quite shocking when it was made in 1956; it was unheard of to suggest that a child could be a murderer and that her evil was inherited from her mother. The cast came direct from the Broadway show and were comfortable in their roles. Nancy Kelly goes from contented housewife to hysterical lunatic and is believable all the way. Patty McCormack is perfect as the angelic little devil in crinolines and braids. She's tough gutsy and holds her own with the talented adults. Henry Jones, as the handy man, is really creepy and terrific.
While the actors are all great, the director chose to make a filmed play and it doesn't always work. The dialogue is all shouted and the actors politely take turns speaking, there's no overlap or hesitation; everything sounds too rehearsed. The action is mostly confined to a living room set where the actors do a LOT of talking with little action; they stand still and stare at whoever is speaking; this probably worked a lot better on stage.
The Extras include film commentary and a memories short with Patty McCormack and these are great fun. Despite it's staginess, the movie is exciting and intense and very enjoyable.