Remember how moved Seinfeld’s Kramer was to be watching a movie that went directly to video? (Hint: This fictional movie was about a lady in a coma). As delightful as it is to be watching films that bypassed theaters, we must remember those poor, deprived souls of previous generations that grew up before the VCR was invented and could not watch lame direct-to-video films. What did they do to satisfy such viewing desires? They watched movies that went directly to TV. One such made-for-TV film is Bad Ronald
Ronald is a teenage nerd with a penchant for fantasy that has an overprotective mother who is equally weird. Ronald accidentally kills a girl who is making fun of him. In order to escape prosecution, mother and son concoct a plan to conceal Ronald within the walls of their house. Can’t arrest and prosecute what you cannot find! Mother gets sick and goes to the hospital, where she dies. Poor Ronald is left all alone behind the walls and he continues to live there when a new family moves in.
Bad Ronald was the ABC movie of the week back on October 23 of 1974. I was only three years old when this monumental event occurred, so I remember it not. But I have a colleague that was about twelve years old when Bad Ronald aired and I thought surely he would remember watching this pivotal moment of television in the same way that viewers of the moon landing broadcast have never forgotten all that “one step for man” stuff. Alas, he could not remember what he was doing the evening of 10-23-74. In fact, he didn’t even realize this movie existed. Imagine that!
Truth be told, this is an obscure film that has gained a following throughout the years. IMBD user reviews attest to its cult status. It was resurfaced within various waves of popular culture. For instance, there is the 80’s punk band “Bad Ronald” that (Excuse me, ‘What’s that?’ This is an entirely different “Bad Ronald”, its name intended to poke fun at Ronald Reagan? Okay then, I stand corrected. I’ll just…. ‘What now?’. There IS a rap band “Bad Arnold” named after this movie? Why don’t I just slowly back away from this paragraph and write my way nonchalantly into to next one. Do dee doo dee doo dee dooo……)
Okay, where was I? Oh yeah, Bad Ronald – an interesting and offbeat film loved by many; surprisingly compelling for an early 1970’s made for TV movie. Now, one might ask, what the heck does Bad Ronald have to do with haunted houses? I tell ya what – I’ll show you how this film relates to the haunted house genre. Let me restart this review another way:
The Wood family – mother, father, and three teenaged daughters – moves into a Victorian home. The eldest daughter acquires a boyfriend who tells the family the dark history of the house. As he eats dinner in the house at the Wood home he blurts out, “I never thought I would ever be here eating in this house.” What did he mean by that? Why did he stress “this” house? He then told them that the boy who used to live in his house killed his younger sister. Ronald was his name.
What became of Ronald? No one knows. The police had never found him. As it turned out, Ronald was listening in on this morbid and frightening dinner conversation from behind the walls!
After this dinnertime story, the girls notice strange happening within their home. They hear noises in the middle of the night – it sounds if someone is stumbling about the house. Food begins to vanish from the refrigerator. Someone had been tampering with the eldest daughter’s diary. Some of the daughters are convinced that their new home is haunted.
One evening, when the parents and oldest two sisters are away, Ronald comes out of the walls and confronts the youngest daughter, who is scared out of her wits. He declares himself Prince Norbert and he wants to steal her away and take her to his kingdom where she will be his princess. Ronald had lost touch with reality. He has gone quite mad.
Now does this film sound like a haunted house flick? I’m guessing that some are still not convinced. Let me just say that for a long time I’ve wanted to see this movie. Finally I found it on dailymotion.com. The damn video got stuck every five minutes and needed a refresh. Then I was assaulted with ads. But I got through it. I wanted to see it so bad that I suffered through all the shit and spent well over two hours watching a 70-minute film.
Since I put up with all the annoying obstacles that tried and failed to prevent me from seeing this film, I at least have the right to view this film through whichever genre lens I choose. Though some will disagree, I choose to categorize this film as a haunted house movie.
If you can find Bad Ronald, watch it. If you see it at the store, buy it. It’s one of a kind.