Terrible acting, screenplay and direction.
The film's masterful storytelling did its job. The message was clear. No need to overdo.
Watching it is like watching the spectacle of a class clown at their best: you laugh at their jokes, instigate their defiance, and "ooooh" when they get in trouble.
Through painfully honest and emotional moments, the movie becomes irresistibly relatable
This film had been on my "to watch-list" for quite a while now and re-watching it again cemented that I had only watched the cut version; "What the Peeper Saw" and not the uncut take "Night Child". There's probably 5-10 minutes of extra footage and being a little more explicit (in its nudity and risqué developments) like the opening intro. Elise has just married an English author and has moved in with him at his villa in Spain, but soon his twelve year old son Marcus (her step-son) arrives on the scene. Something about him just makes her nervous, as his quite smart, but seamlessly a lonely figure and his father believes it has to do with the death of his mother two years ago. However Elise begins have doubts about Marcus intentions, as he goes about trying to exploit and feed upon that paranoia to cause friction between Elisa her husband. Similar in tone to the disturbing erotic thriller "The Sailor who fell from Grace with the Sea", the 70's multi-European production "Night Child" is a luridly brooding and audaciously voyeuristic psychological drama in the mould of those monstrous, but intellectual children who get enjoyment out of toying around with those who are vulnerable and manipulating things to their own liking. It's strange seeing Mark Lester (of "Oliver" fame) in that type of role, but he nails down one perversely sinister and obsessed performance. He comes across as one very mature weirdo. There's moments when you do question is he really that devious, or maybe it's all in the overactive imagination of Ekland's unstable character. But there really seems to be no doubt, despite the teasing nature of the story's structure and the finale with the scheming exchanges between Lester and Ekland. It's quite sombre and slow-going, as the tension is fuelled by the snappy character interactions, intense dialogues, unsure behaviour and edgy circumstances that Ekland's character finds herself in. Some moments you wouldn't catch nowadays, as underneath the surface there's an uneasy immoral sexual attraction between the two which starts off as innuendos and then advancements that leads to the infamous strip-down. The low-key story is a moody display of mind games (interesting to see the tables turned as just who's the evil one; not the step-mother) and uncomfortable situations, as it doesn't play for shocks or thrills (although there's one haunting pool sequence and the final few frames is quite jolting with a lasting blow). The directors (James Kelly and Andrea Bianchi) do a sturdy job, but try something experimental in where some scenes the formidable music swamps the dialogues (leaning on the body movements to tell the emotions along with the music) and towards the end it sends up some surreal, tripped-out visions implying the neurotic mindset of Ekland's character. Going a long way to selling it is a dependable performance by Brit Ekland. Looking radiant as ever (especially that doll face), she plays it in a rather mystified manner drawing up a wholehearted characterisation. Also appearing in good, potent parts are Harry Kruger, Harry Andrews and Lilly Palmers. Ekland's scenes with Andrews and Palmers are small, but are good contrasts to what goes to eventuate with her character. Stelvio Cipriani's music score is sensually enticing. "Curiosity was her downfall."
For a multi national production with two directors it is amazing that this turned out so well. I just wish between everybody they could have thought up at least one good title. Never mind, it is well worth seeing anyway. Britt Ekland is outstanding in a demanding role, as to is the ex-Oliver male lead, Mark Lester. I feel Hardy Kruger lets the side down rather but as the inadvertent go-between for his son and his new wife, the role was never going to be easy. For all the difficulties not to mention lots of nudity and sex scenes involving Ekland and the boy, this is a well told tale with quite a punch. The wide spread assumption that children are innocent little things and step mothers evil, always makes for a potent storytelling and this super sleazy number is no exception.
Its a well directed movie and needless to say it must have been a tight rope-walking to handle the taboo subject which must been akin to playing with fireball given the fact that movie debuted on screens way back in 1972. The movie seems more of psychological thriller as it involves quite a bit of mind-games. Mark Lester as Marcus does a wonderful job. His character seems more like Damien from The Omen and gets to mouth intelligent lines. He looked on higher side for being portrayed aged twelve. Britt Ekland gets the meaty bit of the role. Portrays the dilemma of the character quite well. Though the character of Elise starts off as a compassionate mother but as the movie progresses it evolves to be victim of Marcus and then leading to inquisitive wife attempting to unearth the truth.Hardy Kruger seemed to have underplayed the of role of Paul as torn between the two ends. Otherwise his character had a variety of dimensions to it and certainly could have elevated the grey shades of it. Narrative begins to build up as the movie progresses. Interesting parts are moves Marcus and Elise to play on the chess board attempting to out-beat each other. The part where Elise begins to get clues about the death is interestingly directed (the jigsaw picture), though might seem primitive my todays standards. The vivid imaginations of Elise comes across quite okay.And yes, the end was well justified so don't miss the last 60-seconds of the movie.
This is just what the world needed--the star of "Oliver" as a pubescent sex pervert and psychopath. A young woman (Swedish sex symbol Britt Ekland)marries an older man soon after his first wife dies in a mysterious bathtub accident. All is fine until his creepy 12-year-old son (played by Mark "Oliver" Lester) returns home early from school. The cold, precocious youngster tortures and kills animals, tells malicious lies to turn her husband against her, spies on them in bed(this was alternately marketed under the more lurid title "What the Peeper Saw"), and for the piece de resistance forces her to strip while he reveals the truth about what happened to his mother. This movie is not entirely uninteresting, but it is let down by the acting. Britt Ekland was great dancing naked in "The Wicker Man" and tolerable as a bikini-clad Bond girl in "The Man with the Golden Gun", but she is simply not a good enough actress to play a dramatic lead. As for Lester there is probably a reason he never made the leap from child to adult star--he was pretty much a British MacCauley Culkin (who years later would star in a very similar "Bad Seed"-type movie called "The Good Son"). Lester is not very scary and he's certainly not very convincing as an erudite child genius (who names his dogs "Trotsky" and "Hanibal").Modern audiences will probably be surprised by the sexual intrigue between Ekland and Lester. I don't know if that scene where she strips for him was controversial at the time, but I know a similar scene in Lucio Fulci's "Don't Torture a Duckling" where Barbara Bouchet displays herself to a young boy certainly was.The ending is surreal, bizarre, and really doesn't make a lick of sense, but it's vastly preferable to the very predictable ending of the "The Good Son" or the ridiculous deus ex machina ending of the original "The Bad Seed". This film may not be as creepy and well-acted as the "The Bad Seed", but it's not as stagey and it was filmed in one of the most beautiful places in the world, the north of Spain. However, if you want good acting, a truly creepy storyline, AND beautiful cinematography, the best of these bad seed/child psycho movies is "The Sailor Who Fell from Grace with the Sea" with Kris Kristoferson.