Blu-Ray Review – The Little Girl Who Lives Down the Lane (1976)

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Signal One Entertainment is a new force on the British home video market and their very first release is a total oddball of a film. The Little Girl Who Lives Down the Lane was directed by the Hungarian Nicolas Gessner and in turn was based on the novel by Laird Koenig who wrote the screenplay and even wrote a stage adaptation. Jodie Foster stars as Rynn Jacobs and it came out the same year as Taxi DriverBugsy Malone and Freaky Friday so she was a busy girl in 1976.

Rynn is a strange 13-year-old who lives in this house with her dad not sublet from Cora Hallet (Alexis Smith) who is a landlord from hell. Hallet’s son Frank is played by Martin Sheen who is a paedophile and is known for assaulting young girls but the police haven’t done anything about it and given his tendencies naturally has a “thing” for the girl. Rynn’s father is away supposedly in New York City, he is a poet so she is left by herself in the house and there are dark secrets she is hiding from the neighbours.

The film is really uncategorizable it certainly has elements of horror but a romance blossoms between Rynn and the Italian boy Mario (Scott Jacoby) and it’s a coming of age story. The film has an almost Stephen King age feel especially Misery which is almost set extensively in one house and was also later adapted to the stage. Foster normally doesn’t speak ill of the films she has made but has said this wasn’t one of her favourites and the producers were total creeps. They wanted her to appear nude which she refused, they used her sister as a double instead in a icky sex scene.

1976 was an interesting year of female led “horror” films Carrie came out as well and similarly it’s also about this misfit girl in small town America. Foster as everyone knows is a great actress and as the commentary says she is a master of acting with her eyes. Martin Sheen who I’ve always had tons of time for gives one of the most disturbing performances of a paedophile I’ve ever witnessed, he really had no concept of what he is doing is wrong and there is shocking scene involving a hamster and the producers remain adamant it was already dead.

The disc isn’t loaded but it includes a commentary by DVD Delirium’s Nathaniel Thompson and Tim Greer and the film’s trailer. The disc’s transfer is super clear and clean and looks great for such an obscure film of the mid ’70s, I have to admit I hadn’t even heard of it before it was announced but it’s a total surprise and has such an oft kilter vibe throughout along with two strong performances from Sheen and Spacek. Funnily enough the poster art used for the cover is from a scene which never appears in the book or the film which was made probably to cash in on the success of The Omen and other films that deal with paedophobia.

★★★1/2
Ian Schultz

Mystery, Drama, Thriller | USA, 1976 | 15 | Signal One Entertainment | 5th October 2015 (UK) | Dir.Nicolas Gessner | Jodie Foster, Martin Sheen, Alexis Smith, Mort Shuman, Scott Jacoby | Buy: [Blu-ray]