Bad Ronald

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Bad Ronald
Home video cover
Genre Drama
Written by John Holbrook Vance (novel)
Andrew Peter Marin (teleplay)
Directed by Buzz Kulik
Starring Scott Jacoby
Kim Hunter
Pippa Scott
John Larch
Dabney Coleman
John Fiedler
Lisa Eilbacher
Roger Aaron Brown
Music by Fred Karlin
Country of origin United States
Original language(s) English
Executive producer(s) Lee Rich
Producer(s) Philip Capice
Location(s) Burbank, California, U.S.
Cinematography Charles F. Wheeler
Editor(s) Samuel E. Beetley
Running time 74 min
Production company(s) Lorimar Productions
Distributor ABC
Original network ABC
Original release
  • October 23, 1974 (1974-10-23) (U.S.)

Bad Ronald is a 1974 American made-for-television thriller film starring Scott Jacoby, Kim Hunter, Dabney Coleman and sisters Lisa and Cindy Eilbacher. It is based on the book of the same title by Jack Vance.

After being out of print for years following its initial VHS release in the 1980s, the film was reissued on DVD in August 2009, as part of the manufacture-on-demand Warner Archive Collection.


Ronald Wilby (Scott Jacoby) is a socially inept, awkward high school youth with budding artistic talent and a predilection for fantasy, who is often ridiculed for his behavior and mannerisms. His overprotective mother, Elaine (Kim Hunter), is in need of surgery and plans for Ronald to become a doctor and cure her illness. Ronald's father has not been heard from in years, having divorced his mother and then agreeing to terminate his parental rights in exchange for not having to pay child support.

One afternoon, while asking out Laurie Matthews (Shelley Spurlock), he is rejected and then ridiculed by her friends. As he returns home, he accidentally knocks over her younger sister Carol (Angela Hoffman). Carol, like Laurie, also taunts Ronald, at which point he pushes her over, inadvertently killing her when she strikes her head on a concrete block during the fall. He buries the body and confesses to his mother, but fearing the police will not believe that it was accidental, Ronald and his mother wallpaper the door frame to the downstairs bathroom and convert the closed-off space to a living quarters for Ronald, with a concealed trapdoor in the pantry through which Ronald can escape in an emergency. The plan is for him to hide in the room until the incident blows over, and Mrs. Wilby tells the police that Ronald ran away.

Ronald's mother keeps paying attention to what neighbors, particularly the nosy Mrs. Schumacher (Linda Watkins), and others are saying about the young girl's disappearance and tells Ronald that when it's safe, he can return to a normal life. One afternoon, she is taken into a hospital for gallbladder surgery, from which she unexpectedly dies. In the meantime, Ronald has created a fantasy world in his own head consisting of a prince and a princess that live happily until a devil appears and a struggle begins.

Shortly after Mrs. Wilby's death, the house is sold to the Wood family, consisting of a mother (Pippa Scott), father (Dabney Coleman) and three teenage daughters: Babs (Cindy Fisher), Althea (Cindy Eilbacher) and Ellen (Lisa Eilbacher). As Ronald needs food to eat, and begins to crave human interaction, sudden disappearances of food and odd noises are experienced by the new family.

Babs, the youngest of the Wood daughters, becomes identified with Ronald's princess and he identifies himself as the prince, while Duane Matthews (Ted Eccles) (who is well liked by the family), oldest daughter Ellen's boyfriend and brother of the previously mentioned Matthews girls, becomes identified with the monster that threatens their happiness. Ronald's goal is to "regain" his princess and remove anything, including the members of her family, that stops his dream from becoming reality. During this time, neighbor Mrs. Schumacher spots Ronald on a venture outside his space and dies of a heart attack from the shock; fearing the police will blame him, Ronald ends up burying her as well.

Mr. and Mrs. Wood then make plans to go out of town for a couple of days, leaving the girls on their own. Ronald confronts Babs when she is alone in the house and tells her she is his princess. She flees to Mrs. Schumacher's house next door (unaware of her aforementioned demise), but Ronald locks her in the basement and forges a note for her sisters to find, claiming she has run away. Both Ellen and Althea are skeptical of the note, but the police refuse to do anything. Ronald later attacks Duane, knocking him out and tying him up and gagging him. The police now suspect something is amiss and advise Ellen and Althea to check into a hotel, but they refuse.

Shortly after the police leave, Althea notices one of the many peepholes Ronald has drilled. When she approaches it, she suddenly sees Ronald's eye staring back at her, and screams in terror as Ronald then breaks through the wall. The police, who have been watching the house, hear the girls' screams and rush back. Ronald is captured as he tries to flee, crying out for his mother. Soon afterwards, Duane and Babs are both discovered, shaken but not seriously harmed.

The story stops without depicting any of the legal proceedings involving Ronald Wilby.


In his book What Were They Thinking? The 100 Dumbest Events in Television History, author David Hofstede ranked the movie at #90 on the list.[1]


  1. ^ David Hofstede (2004). What Were They Thinking? The 100 Dumbest Events in Television History. Back Stage Books. pp. 19–21. ISBN 0-8230-8441-8. 

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