The Little Girl Who Lives Down the Lane (1976)

With this role Jodie Foster proves once and for all that she is a punk.
Our Rating

Genre(s): Drama, Mystery, Thriller

Director: Nicolas Gessner

Actors: Jodie Foster, Martin Sheen, Alexis Smith, Mort Shuman, Scott Jacoby

Year: 1976

MPAA Rating: PG

Country: Canada / France

I saw the first half of The Little Girl Who Lives Down The Lane when I was in junior high. I found it while flipping channels after SNL, and was immediately intrigued by this spooky tale. What’s up with little Jodie Foster living all by herself in the woods? And what the heck has she got in her cellar? Sadly, I wouldn’t learn the answers to these questions for fourteen years, as I had to give up and go to bed when it got to be 2 a.m.

At long last I know the secret of the little girl who lives down the lane. Rynn (Jodie Foster) is thirteen years old. She lives very much alone, though she’d rather you didn’t know that, and she has devised all sorts of tricks to look out for herself. When adults come to the door, she says her father (a poet) is working and mustn’t be disturbed. The truth is that he knew he was going to die, and wanted to protect Rynn from her greedy floozy mother. He knew his ex-wife would try to take his daughter’s inheritance, so he leased a house for Rynn for three years, and provided her with enough traveler’s checks to last until she’s sixteen.

Though Rynn takes care of herself quite well, she leads a lonely life. She has only a hamster to keep her company, and there is always someone threatening to destroy her carefully constructed world. It doesn’t help that her busybody landlady, Mrs. Hallet, is forever snooping around, asking annoying questions, and rearranging the furniture. As owner of the house, she believes she has free reign over the property, and this simply will not work for Rynn.

Mrs. Hallet’s pervy son, Frank (Martin Sheen), further complicates Rynn’s situation. He shows up on Halloween night and crashes Rynn’s solitary birthday party. He says he likes her hair, slaps her on the bum, then pulls the “Aw shucks, you don’t think I was being fresh now, do you?” routine. Just the kind of neighbor a girl needs, eh? Well, don’t worry too much about Rynn. She has a way of getting rid of people, and she’s got Officer Miglioriti and his nephew Mario (Scott Jacoby) on her side.

Mario is an interesting addition to the cast of characters, as he has a bad leg from a botched polio vaccination, and is somewhat of an outsider. He rides around on his bike wearing a magician’s cape, and imagines himself to be a regular Doug Henning. The fact that he becomes Rynn’s best friend and love interest shows the compassionate side of a girl who has a chronic dead body problem at her house.

Rynn is a fascinating heroine who is fiercely independent and loyal in equal measure. With this role Jodie Foster proves once and for all that she is a punk. Not only is she superb in the role of Rynn, she actually does a nude scene! To think that I was self-conscious about changing my clothes for gym at that age! People are always saying how racy movies are getting, but today’s stuff has nothin’ on the 70’s. In fact, nobody has anything on The Little Girl Who Lives Down The Lane.


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