Random Film of the Week: The Little Girl Who Lives Down the Lane

video courtesy of Youtuber rynnjacobs.com – Thanks!

While it hasn’t got gallons of blood spilling all over the place nor a high body count to rival later and much more exploitative genre flicks, there’s a constant and nicely weird vibe that runs throughout Nicholas Gessner’s 1976 film The Little Girl Who Lives Down the Lane that makes it one of those slow burning “horror” flicks that lingers in your brain after the credits have rolled. The movie is more of a mystery/suspense hybrid than an actual horror film, but it’s easy to see it falling into that latter classification because of one particularly sudden death and part of one or two other scenes. Then again, it’s also one of those great oddball movies where the people who do die get their just desserts and probably won’t be missed even by the most pacifistic film fan.

Two solid and unsettling performances by a young Jodie Foster as Rynn Jacobs, the titular girl who lives in a small cottage (with her unseen poet father working away upstairs) and Martin Sheen as the creepy Frank Hallet, the mean jackass son of the nosy and nasty Cora Hallet (well played by Alexis Smith) keep things moving from beginning to end. Rynn is always seen alone in and around the tiny town she lives in with her dad, and of course, Frank comes a-knockin’ one Halloween eve with that greedy glint in his eye. Rynn manages to give him the broom, but the next day, Mrs. Hallet drops by and gets a bit too snoopy before she, too gets the boot. If you want two more unlikable potential victims in a genre flick, it’s hard to top the Hallets, I say…

Of course, neither of the Hallets can resist Rynn for their own reasons, so they both return in reverse order. One goes missing, the other starts searching and… hey, the game’s afoot (so to speak). Toss in a love interest of sorts, one of the nicest policeman you’ll ever meet in a movie, a couple of plot twists and a final scene that’s surprisingly… satisfying yet oh, so “I’m not moving up there anytime soon, that’s for sure” and you get a cult classic that sits with you like a new dog with a case of the stares. There’s a tiny nod to Psycho here as well, but it’s very subtle (and has a slight taste of almonds). For those of you sequel crazy youngsters out there reading this, a pox on all your houses closet-sized apartments if you get the idea in your head to go to film school just to remake or sequel-ize this gem. I will hunt you down with a stapler loaded with fresh toothpicks. Grrrr.

The rest of the small cast is also perfect here because the film is so well written (Laird Koenig, who wrote the novel the film is based on also did the script) and edited that there’s no filler or nonsense common to the genre. Yes, there’s a sex scene here, but it’s tastefully handled and I can recall the film being shown pretty much uncut on TV. Then again, I’ve read that the US version was nine minutes shorter than the European cut, so I have to wonder what was clipped for North America’s easily shocked 1976/77 cinema goers. I’m gathering the missing footage is mostly more exposition and maybe a bit of blood in the one nasty scene where Frank shows Rynn’s pet how to smoke a cigarette or another where we get a peek downstairs. But I guess I’ll have to hope there’s a foreign version that pops up at some point. Eh, whatever – go dig this one up, make a hot nice cup of tea and see if it suits your tastes (you’ll probably laugh at that last line once you see the movie)…

3 thoughts on “Random Film of the Week: The Little Girl Who Lives Down the Lane

  1. I heard that too but I’m pretty much sure there wasn’t a version they cut nine minutes. The US tv version and VHS releases lacked the nude scene with Connie Foster and Mario’s “Mary f* Poppins!”, that’s it. BTW If people refer to the naturally filmed disrobing as the ‘sex scene’ there is one thing they didn’t understand. The actual sex, maybe not intercourse, happened before Rynn went to open the door for the nice officer, when the camera wasn’t there. Just listen to their dialogue, or notice details like she wears no undies.
    The only other difference between US and some foreign releases are the running times due to PAL speed up, 1:28:37 vs 1:32:07, but interestingly not all PAL DVDs are affected. Like the recent French release, which I highly recommend since you can hear Jodie Foster dubbing herself for the first time, plus it has a short but previously unseen interview… http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=57DPKhgt4zA The only downside is the slightly wrong aspect ratio, the picture is a bit squeezed, though only noticable in direct comparison. It’s a mystery why MGM, who already did a HD transfer for the own MGM HD channel, doesn’t release TLG on Blu-ray. So if you like this great little movie please flood their Twitter MGM_Studios. And count me on board for your stapler mission.


    • Thanks for that reply! I was thinking there wasn’t really much difference between the two versions because I recalled a conversation back in the late 90’s with someone who’d seen the film overseas, so you’ve cleaned that up nicely. And yes indeed,

      The actual sex, maybe not intercourse, happened before Rynn went to open the door for the nice officer, when the camera wasn’t there. Just listen to their dialogue, or notice details like she wears no undies.

      that’s actually the oddball query I’ve gotten a few times from people who haven’t seen the film or somehow (well, in one case) confused it with Taxi Driver AND Pretty Baby within the same question! Well, that guy was a bit drunk at a party when we talked, so that was a bit of a fluke…


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