Child's Play (1972 film)
Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Sidney Lumet|
|Produced by||David Merrick|
|Written by||Stage play:
|Edited by||Joanne Burke
|Distributed by||Paramount Pictures|
Child's Play is a 1972 American drama-mystery film directed by Sidney Lumet. It stars James Mason and Robert Preston. The screenplay by Leon Prochnik is based on the 1970 play of the same title by Robert Marasco. It was released on DVD and Blu-ray September 4th, 2012 by Olive Films.
The film centers on the rivalry between two faculty members at St. Charles, an exclusive Roman Catholic boarding school for boys. Joe Dobbs is an easy-going, well-liked English teacher, while Latin and Greek instructor Jerome Malley is feared and hated by his students. Malley is caring for his dying mother, and his stress is exacerbated by a series of threatening phone calls and written notes he receives. He's certain Dobbs is the source, but his caustic personality prevents him from winning any sympathy or support. Into the fray comes Paul Reis, a former student who has been hired to teach PE, and he soon finds his loyalty torn between Dobbs and Malley, as he becomes increasingly aware of the latter's personal torments. Compounding his situation is the realization that the unbridled violence practiced by the students may be the result of demonic possession.
Marlon Brando originally signed for the role of Joseph Dobbs, but dropped out of the film when he realized James Mason had the better role. He was replaced by Robert Preston, and first-time film producer David Merrick sued Brando for breach of contract.
- James Mason as Jerome Malley
- Robert Preston as Joseph Dobbs
- Beau Bridges as Paul Reis
- Ron Weyand as Father Mozian
- Charles White as Father Griffin
- David Rounds as Father Penny
- Kate Harrington as Mrs Carter
- Jamie Alexander as Sheppard
- Brian Chapin as O'Donnell
- Bryant Fraser as Jennings
- Mark Hall Haefeli as Wilson
- Tom Leopold as Shea
- Julius Lo Iacono as McArdle
- Christopher Man as Travis
- Paul O'Keefe as Banks
- Robert D. Randall as Medley
Principal production credits
- Original Music ..... Michael Small
- Cinematography ..... Gerald Hirschfeld
- Production Design ..... Philip Rosenberg
- Costume Design ..... Ruth Morley
In his review in the New York Times, Vincent Canby observed, "There is something positively comforting about the conception of evil as a kind of metaphysical microbe with a life of its own, something to be caught, like meningitis, battled, and, should Lucifer win, passed on to become a contagion. It's comforting because it lessens personal responsibility, or removes it entirely . . . More often, at least to me, it seems just silly, which is apparently what the people responsible for the film . . . thought. With the exception of the performance of Mr. Mason . . . everything in Child's Play seems to be rather cheaply tricky — such as the low-range photography and floor lighting designed to throw faces into eerie relief. In a more thoughtful film, the screen play and the performances might have been expected to create the sense of true menace and mystery. Even more irritating is the soundtrack, full of ominous clicking noises that are so loud and so resonant that one can't believe that the characters inside the film can't hear them, too. If they did hear them, of course, there'd be very little melodrama since the sounds more or less announce every important plot twist."
Variety stated, "James Mason delivers a solid performance as a man whose hate of his fellow professor is exceeded, he says, only by Robert Preston's hate of him. Role is deeply dramatic, and Preston, in a different type of characterization, lends equal potency."