Little Girl Who Lives Down the Lane, The (1976)

The Little Girl Who Lives Down the Lane (1976), directed by Nicolas Gessner.

This quiet, low-key thriller gets to it right away: Jodie Foster (age 13) lives alone, telling visitors her father is "unavailable". She is exceedingly bright and has an independent attitude, both of which are difficult to conceal from the nosy villagers. Her biggest problems are the neighborhood pervert (Martin Sheen) and his dragon-lady mother (Alexis Smith).

It is a nifty result; we're rooting for her whatever she has to do. She gets a pal in the form of amateur stage magician Scott Jacoby (last seen in Bad Ronald (1974)). Together the young people have an honesty and purity that contrasts with the lies and smutty lusts of the adults.

Martin Sheen is genuinely scary as the slimy child molester. We can't wait to see what happens to him. Alexis Smith was a film star of the 1940s and she is nicely contemporary here, not a grand dame of the past at all. That streak of antisemitism adds a perfect touch to her blue-blood snobbery.

The young people are sometimes natural and sometimes "act" a bit, but young people do "act" as part of their nature, so maybe it is all realistic.

I must not have seen the uncensored version before because I was startled at Foster's quick nude scene when slipping into bed with the boyfriend. She's 13! They can't do that in movies, can they? A closer look (so to speak) shows it is a body double and googling reveals that it was Foster's big sister. In the movie magic world actors cannot enact certain things which they can portray. Scott Jacoby is 20 here; do you know what sort of trouble he would be in? But the plot itself wasn't a censorship issue.

The score is a mix of classical, 70s funk and synthesizer. Filmed in Maine and Quebec.