Ronald Wilby (Scott Jacoby) is a sensitive young chap who lives alone with his divorced mother (Kim Hunter) who dreams of sending him to medical school while he dreams of finishing and illustrating his epic fantasy novel, both of which each of them believe will be his ticket to success. Unfortunately, Ronald is something of an outcast amongst his fellow kids, so when he goes over to see a girl he likes, he is sent away with her friends' insults ringing in his ears. And even more unfortunately, he accidentally kills a little girl who points out this fact on the way home...
There were seemingly hundreds of television movies made in the United States during the nineteen-seventies, and the law of averages has it that at least some of these would stick in the minds of those who saw them, in spite of their essentially disposable nature. So it was with Bad Ronald, an example of the borderline horror thriller that got its plotting over with within a neat hour and a half - that's including the advertising of course - but contrived to be one of the most memorable efforts of its kind produced during the T.V. decade that brought us Duel, Horror at 37,000 Feet and Panic at Lakewood Manor.
When you're actually watching this, however, you'll notice that it takes a hell of a lot of establishing to reach its unique selling proposition which is basically that Ronald is hiding in his house when a new family moves in, unaware of his presence. Sort of a feature length instalment of one of those anthology series, this is economically presented for all its long-windedness in getting to the point, and it offered star Jacoby his place in history with his committed performance as a nerd driven mad. Without his particular brand of desperation mixed with his increasingly crazed fantasy life, this wouldn't be half as compelling.
So how do we get to the stage that sees Ronnie going psycho? Well, he rushes home after the taunting little girl has been killed, and his mother is horrified, seeing that carefully planned for future going to pot. The only way out of this is to, er, put Ronald in a back room behind a cupboard and keep him in there until the whole controversy has blown over, ensuring that he continues his studies while he's in there (although he's more interested in writing his novel - and providing pictures for it, as well). It sounds like the perfect plan, or it does to these two, at any rate, but it all goes horribly wrong when Mrs Wilby has to go into hospital.
Where she promptly dies - we've had the clues that this might happen because she kept looking fatigued and pained at various intervals - but for Ronald, he doesn't know what has happened. So when people start to be shown around the house by an estate agent, he decides to make the best of it and drills holes in the walls so he can spy on the new tenants. And with a new family there, there is also food he can take when they're out. What you'll notice is that the two characters of Ronald and his mother are somewhat divorced from reality, and grow ever more so as the TV movie progresses, so it all ends with Ronald, who has up till then been semi-sympathetic, going on the rampage when he cannot tell fact from his own fiction any more. For an plain presentation typical of its era, this is weird enough for you to see why it has stuck with so many for so long. Music by Fred Karlin.