|James Mason and Robert Preston|
Odd things, including outbreaks of violence and secretive behavior, have been happening at a Catholic boys school. While Frank the headmaster (Ron Weyand) tries to figure out what's going on, a conflict arises between stern, old-style professor Malley (James Mason) and the younger, more beloved coach, Dobbs (Robert Preston of The Lady Gambles). There are rumors going around about Malley, and certain magazines have been sent to his home, along with other harassment; Malley is convinced that Dobbs is behind it all. But whatever Malley's peculiarities, is Dobbs quite the good guy that he pretends to be, and who is actually behind the sinister events at the school which threaten to close it down? Child's Play is very suspenseful and boasts an absolutely superb performance by James Mason. A particularly good scene has him reacting to news of his mother's death. Robert Preston is also good, although a cut below Mason. Beau Bridges is not bad as a student who has returned to the school as a teacher, although he is occasionally on the amateurish side. There are some sharp performances by the younger actors who play the besieged students. Threatening to turn into Children of the Damned at times, Child's Play is a bit far-fetched and theatrical, even maddening, but it is also quite absorbing, suspenseful and fascinating. And that Mason! Robert Marasco, who wrote the stage play upon which this is based, also wrote the novel, Burnt Offerings, the film version of which starred Bette Davis. Sidney Lumet directed a number of stage to screen adaptations, of which The Last of the Mobile Hot Shots was undoubtedly the worst.
Verdict: Much, much better than that "Child's Play" about the killer doll. ***.