The Little Girl Who Lives Down the Lane
|The Little Girl Who Lives Down the Lane|
Promotional poster for US release
|Directed by||Nicolas Gessner|
|Produced by||Zev Braun|
|Written by||Laird Koenig|
|Music by||Christian Gaubert|
|Edited by||Yves Langlois|
|Distributed by||1976 AIP -
USA, theatrical release
2005 MGM -
USA, DVD release
|November 26, 1976 (USA)
December 25, 1976 (Sweden)
January 26, 1977 (France)
|100 min / 91 min (USA)|
|Budget||CAD 1,100,000 (est.)|
The Little Girl Who Lives Down the Lane is a 1976 Canadian-French 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 a 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 the landlady Cora Hallet (Alexis Smith), drops by and makes advances toward Rynn. He leaves quickly when his stepchildren come to the door trick-or-treating, but the next day he is waiting in his car to offer Rynn a ride. She studiously ignores him.
Cora Hallet later arrives at the house. She snoops about attempting to find out where Rynn's father is. She also asks Rynn whether Frank has been bothering her. Rynn claims her father is in New York and taunts the landlady about her son. Rynn's snappy answers and self-confidence unsettle Mrs. Hallet. The situation becomes more tense when Mrs. Hallet wants to get 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.
In town, Rynn again runs into Frank, but he is deterred by the appearance of a police officer named Officer Miglioriti (Mort Shuman) in a police cruiser. Officer Miglioriti drives Rynn home and the two strike up a kind of friendship. Miglioriti asks where Rynn's father is and she tells him that he is working and cannot be disturbed.
Soon after, Mrs. Hallet stops by to pick up her jelly glasses. She and Rynn argue about the absence of Rynn's father. Mrs. Hallet slaps Rynn and takes the box of glasses (which Rynn has previously retrieved from the cellar). 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, Mrs. Hallet is dead.
After a few moments of shock, Rynn tries to hide the evidence of Mrs. Hallet's visit and goes outside to try to move her car. Her inability to start the car attracts the attention of a teenaged boy on a bicycle. The boy Mario (Scott Jacoby) is the teenage nephew of Officer Miglioriti, and is on the way to perform magic tricks at a party. Mario is dressed in a magician's cape and top hat and carries a cane. The cane is more than a prop: a childhood bout with polio has caused him to walk with a limp. He sees that Rynn is trying to hide something from him, but he decides to come back after the party and help her move the car.
Later in the evening, Rynn and Mario 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. This act of loyalty cements the bond between Rynn and Mario.
The same 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. Eventually, Mario chases Frank away using a sword hidden in his cane. Rynn now trusts Mario enough to show him her secret. Down in the cellar are two corpses: Mrs. Hallet and Rynn's own mother.
Rynn fixes tea and 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, a much 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 the man who identified himself as Lester Jacobs was actually Mario wearing a latex mask.
The next day, Rynn learns from Officer Miglioriti that Mario's cold has developed into pneumonia and he has been sent to 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 noise of the trap door slam shut. Downstairs, 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.
- Jodie Foster as Rynn Jacobs
- Martin Sheen as Frank Hallet
- Alexis Smith as Mrs. Hallet
- Mort Shuman as Officer Miglioriti
- Scott Jacoby as Mario
The title for the film comes from the title for Koenig's original 1974 novel, which in turn is a reference to the last line of the 18th-century English nursery rhyme, Baa, Baa, Black Sheep.
The novel by Laird Koenig:
- The Little Girl Who Lives Down the Lane (New York: Coward, McCann & Geoghegan; 1974; hardcover, 217 pgs.)
- The Little Girl Who Lives Down the Lane (London: Corgis; 1975; softcover)
- La Petite Fille au bout du Chemin (French translation)
The film received five Saturn Award nominations, winning two (by the American Academy of Science Fiction, Fantasy & Horror Films) in 1978:
- Best Horror Film
- Best Actress: Jodie Foster
- Best Supporting Actress: Alexis Smith - Nominated
- Best Director: Nicolas Gessner - Nominated
- Best Writing: Laird Koenig - Nominated
- 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.)
- 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.
- "saturnawards.org". Retrieved 2007-06-08.
- The Little Girl Who Lives Down the Lane at the Internet Movie Database
- The Little Girl Who Lives Down the Lane at AllMovie
- Uncensored transcript of the film's dialogue