Sunday, April 25, 2021

#2,558. The Little Girl Who Lives Down the Lane (1976)


Based on the novel by Laird Koenig (who also penned the screenplay), The Little Girl Who Lives Down the Lane relates the sometimes tense, always disturbing tale of 13-year-old Rynn Jacobs (Jodie Foster), who, as far as her neighbors know, lives with her father, an accomplished poet.

Of course, nobody has actually met Rynn’s father; Mrs. Howlett (Alexis Smith), who owns the house they lease, has been asking to speak with him, and Mrs. Howlett’s son Frank (Martin Sheen) claims to be an old friend of his. Even the kindly policeman, Ron Migliorti (Mort Shuman), thinks it’s strange that Rynn is always home, but her father never is.

In fact, most everyone, including Rynn’s new boyfriend Mario (Scott Jacoby), suspects she is hiding something, but nobody could have guessed the terrible secret Rynn has tucked away in the basement.

At times creepy (thanks in large part to Sheen’s portrayal of Frank, an obvious pedophile), The Little Girl Who Lives Down the Lane belongs - from start to finish - to Jodie Foster, who, despite being only 13 when the movie was made, delivers a nuanced performance as a young girl who is smarter than everyone around her. The scenes in which she outwits the pushy Mrs. Howlett are among the film’s most engaging. Even after we discover what Rynn is hiding in the basement, we root like hell for her, and it’s because of Foster that I heartily recommend The Little Girl Who Lives Down the Lane.

Parents should be warned, however: the PG rating is misleading, to say the least. With its strong subject matter and a scene of nudity, this is not a movie you’ll want to watch with the kiddies.
Rating: 8.5 out of 10

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