The Little Girl Who Lives Down the Lane

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The Little Girl Who Lives Down the Lane
Little girl who lives down the lane movie poster.jpg
Promotional poster for US release
Directed by Nicolas Gessner
Produced by Zev Braun
Written by Laird Koenig
Starring Jodie Foster
Martin Sheen
Alexis Smith
Mort Shuman
Scott Jacoby
Music by Christian Gaubert
Cinematography René Verzier
Edited by Yves Langlois
Distributed by 1976 AIP -
USA, theatrical release
2005 MGM -
USA, DVD release
Release dates
November 26, 1976 (USA)
December 25, 1976 (Sweden)
January 26, 1977 (France)
Running time
100 min / 91 min (USA)
Language English (mono)
Budget CAD 1,100,000 (est.)

The Little Girl Who Lives Down the Lane is a 1976 Canadian-French[1] film directed by Nicolas Gessner and starring Jodie Foster, Martin Sheen, Alexis Smith, Mort Shuman, and Scott Jacoby. It was written by Laird Koenig, based on Koenig's 1974 novel of the same title; Koenig also wrote a stage play based on his book. The plot focuses on thirteen-year-old Rynn Jacobs (Foster), a mysterious child whose dark secrets concerning her absent poet father are prodded by various nosy villagers in a small town in Maine. The film, though predominantly a dramatic thriller, also blends elements of horror, mystery, and romance.


During Halloween evening in the seaside town of Wells Harbor, Maine, Rynn Jacobs (Jodie Foster) is celebrating her thirteenth birthday alone in her father Lester's house. Lester is a poet and they have recently moved from England. Frank Hallet (Martin Sheen), the adult son of landlady Cora Hallet (Alexis Smith), drops by and makes advances toward Rynn.

Cora Hallet later arrives at the house. She snoops about, attempting to find out where Rynn's father is. Rynn claims her father is in New York and taunts the landlady about her son. The situation becomes more tense when Mrs. Hallet insists on getting her jelly glasses from the cellar. Rynn steadfastly refuses to let her in the cellar despite Mrs. Hallet's threatening her with truancy. Finally, the frustrated Mrs. Hallet leaves.

When Mrs. Hallet returns later, she and Rynn argue about the absence of Rynn's father. Mrs. Hallet slaps Rynn and takes the box of glasses, which Rynn has retrieved from the cellar beforehand. Rynn however has forgotten the rubber seals for the jars. Ignoring Rynn's warnings, Mrs. Hallet opens the trap door to the cellar and steps down to get the seals herself. Suddenly terrified by something she sees, Mrs. Hallet screams and knocks the cellar door support, causing the door to slam down on her head. When Rynn opens the trap door, there is no response from Mrs. Hallet.

Trying to hide evidence of Mrs. Hallet's visit, Rynn goes outside to move her car. Her inability to start the car attracts the attention of a teenaged boy. Mario (Scott Jacoby) is the nephew of Officer Miglioriti, and is on the way to perform magic at a party. The cane with his magician's costume also helps with a limp acquired from polio. He returns to help her move the car, and they have dinner together at Rynn's house. Officer Miglioriti stops by to tell them that Frank Hallet has again reported his mother missing. Officer Miglioriti asks to see Rynn's father, but Mario covers by saying that Rynn's father has gone to bed.

Later that night, Frank Hallet makes a surprise visit. Suspicious and looking for answers about the whereabouts of his mother and Rynn's father, he tries to scare Rynn into talking by torturing and strangling her pet hamster. Mario chases Frank away, and Rynn now trusts him enough to show him her secret: the corpses of Mrs. Hallet and Rynn's mother.

Rynn tells Mario everything: Her terminally ill father and abusive mother divorced long ago. To protect Rynn from being returned to her mother's custody after his death, he moved them to an isolated area and made plans to allow Rynn to live alone. He then committed suicide in the ocean, so his body would not be found. He also left Rynn with a jar of powder, telling her that it was a sedative to give to her mother if she ever came for her. The powder was really potassium cyanide. Rynn coolly recounts how she put the powder in her mother's tea, explaining away the poison's almond taste as being from almond cookies, and watched her mother die. The romance between Rynn and Mario continues to blossom. They move the bodies out of the cellar and bury them by the side of the house. It starts to rain heavily, and Mario catches a terrible cold.

Officer Miglioriti, suspicious of Rynn's excuses for her father's absence, again returns to the house. When he asks to see her father, an older looking man comes down the stairs. The man introduces himself as Lester Jacobs, signs a book for Officer Miglioriti, and returns to his room. With all his suspicions finally put to rest, Officer Miglioriti apologizes for doubting Rynn and takes his leave. It is then revealed that her father was actually Mario wearing a mask. They go upstairs, undress and get into bed together. The next day, Rynn learns that Mario's cold has developed into pneumonia and he is in the hospital. Rynn comes to see him, but he is unconscious, and she feels lonelier than ever before.

That night, as Rynn is going to bed, she hears the cellar door slam shut. She is shocked to find Frank coming out of the cellar. He has put the pieces together and knows the truth about Rynn's parents. He attempts to blackmail her by offering to protect her secrets in exchange for some kind of strongly implied sexual favors. Rynn, seemingly defeated and resigned to Frank's demands, agrees to his suggestion that they have a cup of tea. Rynn places a dose of the potassium cyanide into her own cup and then takes the tea and almond cookies to the living room. A suspicious Frank then switches cups with her and they drink. He notices the almond taste, but Rynn again explains that it is only the cookies. Frank drinks more and begins coughing. Rynn watches while a dying Frank strokes her hair.



The film received five Saturn Award nominations, winning two (by the American Academy of Science Fiction, Fantasy & Horror Films) in 1978:[2]


Soundtrack albums:

  • The Little Girl Who Lives Down the Lane: Original Motion Picture Soundtrack by Christian Gaubert (Japan: Polydor Records, 1976; "small press run"). This album has been reissued on CD in 2013 from Disques Cinemusique, a French-Canadian company.
  • Chopin: Piano Concerto No. 1 performed by the London Philharmonic Orchestra, conducted by Eliahu Inbal and featuring Claudio Arrau on piano (UK: Philips, 1968). Side 1 of this record was featured prominently on the film's soundtrack, but was not included on the official soundtrack album. This LP has since been reissued in CD format.


As a drama by Laird Koenig:

  • The Little Girl Who Lives Down the Lane (New York: Dramatists Play Service, Inc.; 1997; chapbook, 71 pgs.)


  1. ^ From the film credits: “An official Canadian-French co-production between I.C.L. Industries Limited (Canada) and La Société Filmel (France) 1975 in association with Ypsilon Films SA.” 1976 Claremont Productions Ltd. As broadcast on Turner Classic Movies, November 20, 2010.
  2. ^ "". Retrieved 2007-06-08. 

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