Jodie Foster has had a career any actor would envy. Beginning her acting career at age five with guest appearances on numerous television shows such as Mayberry R.F.D., The Courtship of Eddie’s Father and Gunsmoke. By the early seventies, Foster began appearing in family films largely for Disney, but one early role was in Martin Scorsese’s Alice Doesn’t Live Here Anymore (1974), where she appears as streetwise, wine guzzling Audrey. In 1976. Foster officially made the leap to starring roles, when she appeared in Taxi Driver, Bugsy Malone, and Freaky Friday. While showing her ability to do both comedy and drama, Foster, just fourteen at the time, proved she could handle adult subjects with an intimidating maturity.
Also released in 1976, The Little Girl Who Lives Down the Lane is dark and unsettling. Made in Canada by Hungarian born director Nicolas Gessner, the film takes unexpected turns throughout. Adapted by Laird Koenig from his own novel, Foster plays thirteen-year-old Rynn Jacobs, living alone in a rented house on the New England shore in Maine. Before her poet father died, they worked out a system whereby Rynn could live on her own and avoid school until she came of age. If a visitor happens by, she pretends her father isn’t home or in his study. In truth, his dead body is in the cellar, which can be entered through a trap-door opening on the dining room floor.
The idea is to live isolated, away from everyone. Despite her best efforts, Rynn is unable to avoid outside interference, from friendly local cop Miglioriti (warmly played by songwriter Mort Shuman), to the devious landlady Mrs. Hallett (Alexis Smith) and her corrupt, pedophile son Frank (Martin Sheen). After Mrs. Hallett dies as a result of an accident, Rynn enlists the help of a crippled older boy, Mario (Scott Jacoby), with a love for magic tricks. The two bond over their outcast status. Cautiously at first, Rynn tells Mario her secret. From there, he has her back when it matters most. Nonetheless, Frank is sniffing around, so some type of confrontation is unavoidable…
Down the Lane doesn’t hide Frank’s sexual interest in Rynn. The film opens on Halloween, giving this father of two the perfect chance to get into her home and unleash his slimy charms. This initial encounter sets the tone of the film, establishing the mystery of Rynn’s father, and Frank’s creepiness. Though he’s not physically violent initially (that comes later), he maintains contact with her as they talk. Ugh.
The script is well written and the mystery is sold; to give away much more would spoil it. Suffice to say, it’s largely the excellent performance of Jodie Foster that makes The Little Girl Who Lives Down the Lane worth watching. I’ve watched countless films in my life, and Jodie Foster was simply one of the best child actors ever. She was thirteen when The Little Girl Who Lives Down the Lane was filmed, but her maturity is through the roof, it gives the film an edge that a lesser performer couldn’t have offered.
Presented in the 1.85:1 aspect ratio, Kino Lorber has provided a solid 1080p transfer. Details really emphasize the close-ups, and textures offering viewers a pleasant viewing experience. Colors are realistic, skintones are natural. Delineation is appropriate and the image appears clean.
The 2.0 DTS-HD MA nterview sound mix handles dialogue well, handling emotional changes in vocals. The track is distortion free and no clicks, hisses, etc. are evident.
There are no subtitles.
The following subtitles are available:
- Audio Commentary with Director Nicholas Gessner: Gessner gives a worthwhile commentary here. He doesn’t see the film as horror, but rather a “teenage love story.” He discusses the characters at length, the production, the casting, locations and more.
- Interview with Martin Sheen (HD, 27:27) Sheen discusses his approach to the role, Jodie Foster and he breaks down the filming process. Sheen is always a fascinating listening.
- A Conversation with Sheen and Gessner (HD, 5:33) A brief reunion between the two via Skype. It’s clear they have fond memories of working together.
- Theatrical Trailer (HD, 2:03)
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