The great Robert Preston (most famous for The Music Man) is someone I love to watch, even when the material he's in doesn't quite rise to his level. In Child's Play, he plays a beloved English teacher at a Catholic school for boys, and makes an excellent foil to the older and much-feared Latin teacher, James Mason. Beau Bridges plays a young phys-ed instructor who becomes caught up in their feuding—and by the creepy, almost homicidal behavior of their teenage students, which may have some connection.
Based on a play by Burnt Offerings author Robert Marasco, the film was particularly interesting to me because of its lack of availability—unreleased on video and rarely (if ever) shown on TV, it was recently offered as digital download via Amazon's On Demand. Sadly, the mystique of the movie slowly evaporated as I watched. It's a pretty slow-moving and dull picture that tries to be menacing and fails. Mason and Preston are typically excellent, however. It's just a shame they got caught in this muddled, quasi-Satanic flick about the dangers of putting your trust in the wrong people. This was a misstep for famed director Sidney Lumet, whose previous films included The Pawnbroker and Fail-Safe (both of which are on my to-view list) and who would go on to make Serpico, Dog Day Afternoon and Network...as well as the godawful The Wiz. Rating: 2/5.