The Little Girl Who Lives Down the Lane From Newcomers Signal One

Here's a nice, new release from a new DVD/ blu-ray label, Signal One. It's an early Jodie Foster thriller called The Little Girl Who Lives Down the Lane. This is an HD debut of a film that's been released a number of times on DVD, but never before on blu, and it's coming to us from the UK. It's also the first release with any substantial extras. So my hopes were cautiously high when I took a chance and ordered this, now let's see how happy I should be with my purchase.
The Little Girl Who Lives Down the Lane is a smart, taught 1976 thriller based on a novel by Laird Koenig. An overwhelming majority of this film takes place in one room, so it's no surprise that this was later adapted into a stage play as well. It's also another one of those great Canadian films made in that tax shelter period where a lot of films, by directors like Bob Clark and David Cronenberg were created with a lot of creative freedom and often made to appear American. In this case, the film's meant to be set in Maine, and it passes fine enough so long as you're not intimately familiar with the locations.
Foster made this the same year as Taxi Driver, and she's perhaps even more impressive here as a 13 year-old girl who's somehow living in a large house all by herself. Naturally, people are immediately suspicious and start snooping around, from the local sheriff's deputy to a sleazy pedophile played expertly by Martin Sheen. But despite her age, Foster appears more than prepared to kill to protect her secret. Then again, she might not be the only one...
Everything about this film is surprisingly effective. The author of the original novel wrote the screenplay, so the story and dialogue is crackling. The score is subtle but effective, and the supporting cast includes 1940s studio star Alexis Smith and a particularly engaging turn by Bad Ronald's Scott Jacoby. It's very Hitchcockian in how it plays with what the audience knows or thinks it knows, and how it gets viewers wholeheartedly on the side of a killer. Horror fans expecting a a high volume of gruesome kills may be disappointed, but this certainly isn't kiddie fare either. In fact, it's pretty interesting how it's generally assumed that our society is ever-increasingly permissive; but I find it hard to imagine that this film could probably only have been made, or at least allowed into the mainstream with a PG rating and high volume of television broadcasts in this day and age. It's a unique product of the 70s.
Which brings me to the point that yes, this is the uncut "international" version on blu-ray. The primary distinction between the international and US cut version being a brief nude scene of Foster's character (performed by a body double). However, almost all, if not entirely all, of the past DVD releases have also been the uncut version; so this shouldn't be a big revelation to most fans of the film. But it's good to know that this release is uncut.
Signal One's new blu looks great, with very natural looking colors, blacks and details. The framing is very slightly letterboxed to 1.84:1 in 1080p. It's a single layer disc, but the transfer takes up almost all the space, and the grain is very clear, so I doubt the film could look much better than this. The LPCM audio is also very clear and bold, and also features optional English HoH subtitles.

No past release has ever had any extras apart from the trailer and/or bonus trailers. Well, the trailer is here, too; and it's worth a watch in how they market this is more of a frightening horror film. But the biggest deal here, at least in terms of special features, is the inclusion of a brand new audio commentary by Nathaniel Thompson and Tim Greer. Thompson writes for Mondo Digital and is fully prepared with a lot of information on the film, taking almost all of the weight of the commentary. Green chimes in when Thompson starts to run out of steam midway through to help keep things moving and playful. They do get a little lost, veering off onto the occasional self-indulgent tangent or two, but for the most part it's a good listen with a lot of the information viewers would want to know, like how the film differs from the book or what this film introduced to the closing credits of every major motion picture today.
It may not be a loaded special edition, but this is a first class blu-ray debut of a first class film from a label we should be keeping our eyes on. They've already got a number of other discs either just released or pending for the next couple of months. It is region B locked, though, so US audiences may want to wait for the region A disc coming out at the end of April. I'm guessing they'll be using the same master, and while they probably won't have the commentary, I've read that they've already got an on-camera interview with Martin Sheen, which certainly sounds promising. I don't think you'll have to worry about going wrong either way.

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