A Movie A Day: THE LITTLE GIRL WHO LIVES DOWN THE LANE (1976)
Get out of my house! GET OUT OF MY HOUSE!
Ahoy, squirts! Quint here with today’s installment of A Movie A Day.
[For those now joining us, A Movie A Day is my attempt at filling in gaps in my film knowledge. My DVD collection is thousands strong, many of them films I haven’t seen yet, but picked up as I scoured used DVD stores. Each day I’ll pull a previously unseen film from my collection and discuss it here. Each movie will have some sort of connection to the one before it, be it cast or crew member.]
Martin Sheen bridges us from yesterday’s ‘80s melodrama MAN, WOMAN & CHILD to today’s ‘70s thriller THE LITTLE GIRL WHO LIVES DOWN THE LANE.
We’re introduced to a very young Jodie Foster as she celebrates her birthday… alone… on Halloween night. The opening poses a lot of questions. The girl, Rynn, is adult and independent for her age, but why is she by herself? Where are her parents? Her poet father always seems to be locked in his study or away in New York meeting with his publisher.
Rynn does everything for herself and always has the right things to say when adults come to the door, inquiring for her father.
As the movie unfolds we find out more and more as the adults in the neighborhood become more and more inquisitive. We’re also introduced to an awkward teenage boy named Mario (Scott Jacoby) who befriends and eventually romances Rynn, causing her to drop her defenses a bit, giving her someone she can confide in.
Now, I was expected a little bit of a different kind of movie. I bought a one-sheet for THE LITTLE GIRL WHO LIVES DOWN THE LANE a while back… this one actually:
I bought it because it was a cool design and sounded like a sweet movie with some really interesting people in it, but I also thought it was a ghost story. Looks like it, right? I’m not the only crazy one who assumed that based on the poster am I?
You could easily call THE LITTLE GIRL WHO LIVED DOWN THE LANE a thriller, but there’s nothing supernatural about it, so if you’re expecting that and want to check out the movie, let me at least set that record straight.
And you should definitely seek it out. It’s a great little atmospheric mystery with four stand-out performances.
Let’s start with Jodie Foster. This film was her follow-up to her big triple punch combo of TAXI DRIVER, BUGSY MALONE and FREAKY FRIDAY and she’s creepy good in it. Yeah, she’s creepy and good, but creepy good in that she is an adult in a child’s body in terms of her ability and subtlety as an actress. She’s the prototype Dakota Fanning.
Speaking of… and I’ll be damned that I’m saying this… but I’m surprised no one has tried to remake this movie with Fanning in the lead. Maybe it’s just not known enough… that’s the only reason someone hasn’t tried to make it happen, but it’s a simple story that I could see someone jumping at the chance to do in this era of remake craziness. I do not condone a remake, by the way, I’m just surprised no one has thought of it.
Foster’s great in the movie. Her instincts are impeccable and she plays Rynn with such depth that she effortlessly sells the mystery and suspense of the movie. Like I mentioned above, she’s an adult in a kid’s body mostly because her character needs that protection, needs that independence. But when Mario enters the picture and allows her to not only depend on herself we do glimpse the girl inside.
No matter what Foster gives the character an innocence. I’d be worried if someone did remake it that they’d lose that aspect and make her a villain, play Rynn as a creep and not a little girl doing what she has to to survive.
The real creep of the movie is Martin Sheen playing the kid-touching son of Rynn’s bitchy landlord who has a very unhealthy attraction to Rynn. Sheen is so damn good as a sleazeball. I think that’s one of the reasons why I love David Cronenberg’s THE DEAD ZONE so much and he’s on fire here. He’s like an animal just waiting for his moment to strike, circling his prey, salivating in anticipation of the moment when he can attack.
His mother has used her pull in the small community to cover-up her son’s past “troubles,” and is Rynn’s main threat. Alexis Smith is gleefully cunty in this role. It’s the type of role that Vanessa Redgrave could eat up today… an older woman who is cunning and doesn’t buy Rynn’s bullshit for a second. I loved watching the scenes with these two together, matching wits.
Finally, Scott Jacoby deserves some recognition as the gimpy boyfriend, Rynn’s soulmate. He’s the first to learn the truth about her and accepts Rynn for who she is, becoming her partner in crime in a way. Jacoby is earnest in his puppydog love and that whole relationship struck me as very real for some reason. I can only attribute that to the charisma that Foster and Jacoby had that it didn’t feel weird to see them develop a real (and sexual) relationship.
Final Thoughts: THE LITTLE GIRL WHO LIVES DOWN THE LANE is a quietly suspenseful film that never reaches any huge dramatic or horrific heights, but is a strongly written film (by Laird Koenig, based on his novel) with some very, very strong performances. It’s twisted, but it’s definitely not exploitation.
The schedule for the next 7 days is:
Saturday, August 23rd: THE YOUNG PHILADELPHIANS (1959)
Sunday, August 24th: THE RACK (1956)
Monday, August 25th: UNTIL THEY SAIL (1957)
Tuesday, August 26th: SOMEBODY UP THERE LIKES ME (1956)
Wednesday, August 27th: THE SET-UP (1949)
Thursday, August 28th: THE DEVIL & DANIEL WEBSTER (1941)
Friday, August 29th: CAT PEOPLE (1942)
Tomorrow we follow Alexis Smith over to an early Paul Newman film called THE YOUNG PHILADELPHIANS. And you can see a week from today we’ll be hitting our first (of many) Val Lewton horror films. Can’t wait to get into those.
See you tomorrow!
June 2nd: Harper
June 3rd: The Drowning Pool
June 4th: Papillon
June 5th: Gun Crazy
June 6th: Never So Few
June 7th: A Hole In The Head
June 8th: Some Came Running
June 9th: Rio Bravo
June 10th: Point Blank
June 11th: Pocket Money
June 12th: Cool Hand Luke
June 13th: The Asphalt Jungle
June 14th: Clash By Night
June 15th: Scarlet Street
June 16th: Killer Bait (aka Too Late For Tears)
June 17th: Robinson Crusoe On Mars
June 18th: City For Conquest
June 19th: San Quentin
June 20th: 42nd Street
June 21st: Dames
June 22nd: Gold Diggers of 1935
June 23rd: Murder, My Sweet
June 24th: Born To Kill
June 25th: The Sound of Music
June 26th: Torn Curtain
June 27th: The Left Handed Gun
June 28th: Caligula
June 29th: The Elephant Man
June 30th: The Good Father
July 1st: Shock Treatment
July 2nd: Flashback
July 3rd: Klute
July 4th: On Golden Pond
July 5th: The Cowboys
July 6th: The Alamo
July 7th: Sands of Iwo Jima
July 8th: Wake of the Red Witch
July 9th: D.O.A.
July 10th: Shadow of A Doubt
July 11th: The Matchmaker
July 12th: The Black Hole
July 13th: Vengeance Is Mine
July 14th: Strange Invaders
July 15th: Sleuth
July 16th: Frenzy
July 17th: Kingdom of Heaven: The Director’s Cut
July 18th: Cadillac Man
July 19th: The Sure Thing
July 20th: Moving Violations
July 21st: Meatballs
July 22nd: Cast a Giant Shadow
July 23rd: Out of the Past
July 24th: The Big Steal
July 25th: Where Danger Lives
July 26th: Crossfire
July 27th: Ricco, The Mean Machine
July 28th: In Harm’s Way
July 29th: Firecreek
July 30th: The Cheyenne Social Club
July 31st: The Man Who Knew Too Much
August 1st: The Spirit of St. Louis
August 2nd: Von Ryan’s Express
August 3rd: Can-Can
August 4th: Desperate Characters
August 5th: The Possession of Joel Delaney
August 6th: Quackser Fortune Has A Cousin In The Bronx
August 7th: Start the Revolution Without Me
August 8th: Hell Is A City
August 9th: The Pied Piper
August 10th: Partners
August 11th: Barry Lyndon
August 12th: The Skull
August 13th: The Hellfire Club
August 14th: Blood of the Vampire
August 15th: Terror of the Tongs
August 16th: Pirates of Blood River
August 17th: The Devil-Ship Pirates
August 18th: Jess Franco’s Count Dracula
August 19th: Dracula A.D. 1972
August 20th: The Stranglers of Bombay
August 21st: Man, Woman & Child
Readers Talkbackcomments powered by Disqus
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Aug. 22, 2008, 7:22 p.m. CST
So glad you reviewed it. I hope to god they never remake this. It's such an underappreciated movie.
Aug. 22, 2008, 7:30 p.m. CST
by Grammaton Cleric Binks
You can't give the details without it being a spoiler. Let's just say it's a must see.
Aug. 22, 2008, 7:30 p.m. CST
by Mavra Chang
I would also recommend the book.
Aug. 22, 2008, 7:34 p.m. CST
Yeah, I probably could have written a bit more about the specifics, but it'd kind of gut the unraveling of the mystery surrounding this girl... which is the movie, basically.
Aug. 22, 2008, 7:48 p.m. CST
yeah...he was the best thing about it...and his reaction to the "almond" tasting tea...saw this when i was a kid and it still stays with me
Aug. 22, 2008, 7:57 p.m. CST
by Crimson Dynamo
I saw this and Bad Ronald as a kid too, and they have both stayed with me after all this time. Those are two movies that could stand a decent remake. And no one buries 'em in the basement like Scott Jaboby.
Aug. 22, 2008, 8:15 p.m. CST
by Grammaton Cleric Binks
You focused on the superb acting, the creepiness, and the characters. Keep up the great work, but man don't burn yourself out.
Aug. 22, 2008, 8:20 p.m. CST
by Grammaton Cleric Binks
this and Blue Lagoon today.
Aug. 22, 2008, 8:32 p.m. CST
.. <P> ....
Aug. 22, 2008, 9:10 p.m. CST
creeping the fuck out. Too bad it has never been released on DVD (that I know of...)
Aug. 22, 2008, 9:38 p.m. CST
The book is a little more solid on Rynn's survival instincts. Where the movie makes things a bit more accidental, in the book Rynn's actions are quite intentional. <p> And in case anyone is wondering is a 14-year-old Jodie foster flashed her tits in this one, it was her older sister as a body double. It's a brief flash anyway, so it's not like it's a big deal. <p> While I ADORE this movie, I wouldn't mind seeing a remake. The casting was a little off, the story was softened quite a bit, and it always bothered me that Rynn didn't speak in an English accent as she did in the book (it was mentioned several times by several characters, so it was sort of important to the character.) <p> I would NOT like Dakota Fanning in this. She's too fucking creepy. Rynn should be a brown-haired, petite English 13-year-old girl, and this HAS to be a period piece. If you updated it to the 21st century, it would lose all impact because 13-year-olds today would have the Internet, mobile phones, and all sorts of resources to get by with. Rynn's brilliance is dependent on her being in the pre-computer, pre-cell phone world of the 1970s, when she'd have to go to a library, do actual hands-on research, and NOT be part of some big social network. <p> Oh, and Hallet needs to be much, much creepier and less attractive. I nominate John Lithgow... He can play creepy, and though he's not ugly or anything, he's no male model either. Jeffrey Jones would also work in this role. <p> The woman who played "Flo" on Alice would be a great Mrs. Hallet. <p> I think the girl who plays Luna Lovegood would make a wonderful Rynn. <p> And Mario... he's hard to cast. He has to be plain and sort of nerdy, but very Italian, very sweet, and a hell of an actor who can pull of being gimpy, funny, and protective without seeming pathetic. <p>
Aug. 22, 2008, 10:32 p.m. CST
you've given some great ideas to chase up. Interesting that jodie foster gets top billing over martin sheen. He had already done badlands, though she had done taxi driver so...
Aug. 22, 2008, 11:02 p.m. CST
Ah yes; I can still hear Ernie Anderson announcing this as an ABC Sunday Night Movie: "The Little Girl...Who Lives DOWN The Lane".
Aug. 23, 2008, 12:56 a.m. CST
suddenly richard gere feels hot flushes and wonders why.
Aug. 23, 2008, 3:43 a.m. CST
Kids can act in these movies, portraying and acting along side some disturbing characters... yet the vast majority of children aren't allowed to see the movie. Seems strangely hypocritical. You'd have thought exposing them to the scenario rather than the movie was more likely to have a profound effect.
Aug. 23, 2008, 5:04 a.m. CST
by nolan bautista
..that Aussie movie "Patrick"? It had a creepy lookin' Marty Feldman-lookin' dude who was in a coma..and well..creepiness ensues..check it out!
Aug. 23, 2008, 8:08 a.m. CST
Jeffry Jones has played that role in real life
Aug. 23, 2008, 9:03 a.m. CST
Good thing the netflix description of the movie ruins the damn mystery...I fucking hate that shit...Ah well...keep up the good work man. I've been watching some awesome movies thanks to you.
Aug. 23, 2008, 9:50 a.m. CST
Foster is just sooooo creepy in this. And I too first saw this as the ABC Sunday Night Movie as a kid.<p>I always think of Jodie Foster's career and this film in particular when the "thought police" go after teen sexuality in movies. If some had their way this film would be banned. Even still, there is no way her scene with the boyfriend would be allowed today.<p>"Cat People" in a few days? Oh Yeah!!-----later----m
Aug. 23, 2008, 2:36 p.m. CST
by Hudson Cock
Good to see some love for BR. That shit freaked me out as a kid. How the fuck did they not see him peeping out of those huge eyeholes?
Aug. 23, 2008, 2:50 p.m. CST
The single creepiest part of this movie is the final scene. One long shot, one tear. I won't spoil it for those that haven't seen it, but it's unbelievable to see a young actor pull off something like that.
Aug. 23, 2008, 8:47 p.m. CST
Little girls acting like adults creep me out. Martin sheen, though, is the creepiest. Makes you want to hit people like that (the character-not Sheeen) with a two-by-four.
Aug. 24, 2008, 8:34 p.m. CST
That final scene is what helped solidify Jodie's performance in this movie. For a young talent she was on top of her game. Let's see Lindsay come within the zip code of her.
Aug. 24, 2008, 9:28 p.m. CST
by The Alienist
Man, I'd forgotten them. And the creepy reason for them. I had such a crush on Scott Jacoby from this film. He was the BEST boyfriend...
Aug. 24, 2008, 9:29 p.m. CST
by Red Dawn Don
ABC Sunday Night Movies showed several movies that stayed with me over the years. The Little Girl Who Lived Down The Lane, Bad Ronald, Crowhaven Farm (A Rosemary's Baby rip-off) and Don't Be Afraid Of The Dark (with Kim Darby). Oh yeah, I think they showed the movie Gargoyles (Bernie Casey) on ABC too. It messed my little mind up so badly.
Aug. 26, 2008, 6:36 p.m. CST
by Clarice Starling
I was a tween when I saw this on TV and it creeped me the hell out!! I hate Almond Cookies and tea to this day.. I don't even want to go back and watch it again as an adult.. I appreciated it too much as a kid.. like that weird horror movie about the little demons that drag that woman down the fireplace (Don't Be Afraid of the Dark..I think).. it holds too much child fueled Ick!! and terror nostalgia to fuck with it.
Aug. 26, 2008, 6:53 p.m. CST
by Clarice Starling
I just read your comment.. Yep. thank you, now I know it wasn't just me that ate all that crap up and messed with my developing mind.. Gargoyles. Those damn scary movie weekends!! I had a gleefully morbid uncle who would wake me up to watch Night Gallery. I am still terrified of broaches to this day.
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