Movie Review By Monica Sullivan
This low-key little film was released without fanfare and has no reputation whatever, but it offers an intelligent look at child molestation, especially for its era. Janine Faye and Frances Green play Jean and Lucille, two nine-year-old girls who dance naked for Mr. Olderberry after he promises to give them candy. When Jean tells her mother (Gwen Watford) about it that night, her father (Patrick Allen) tries to resolve the matter with the old man's son (Bill Nagy). But then Jean has a nightmare and her father reports the incident to Captain Hammond (Bud Knapp), who refuses to do anything because, even though the old man is a chronic offender, he IS the town founder. The captain even suggests that the family might be happier elsewhere.
The movie reveals that resolving such matters in court is of little avail, at least in 1960. Lucille's parents spirit her out of town for the duration, so Jean is all alone on the stand. Jean's parents finally agree that they WOULD be happier elsewhere and decide to move. But first, Jean goes over to Lucille's house to say goodbye and the two little girls stroll over to Moon Lake. The chilling conclusion leaves the viewer in no doubt whatever about the severity of child molestation. The fact that the molester is played by the venerable Sir Felix Aylmer (1889-1979), who usually plays judges & other benign authority figures, drives home the point that the molester MUST be dealt with directly, not tolerated, regardless of his community standing.
This is still strong stuff now: In the Eisenhower era, "Never Take Candy From A Stranger" didn't have a chance. I've yet to meet anyone who's ever seen it, even though it IS on video. Francis, who won the Oscar that year for "Sons and Lovers" & who would photograph "The Innocents" the following year, does a superb job here, especially in the gripping Moon Lake sequence. Faye, Watford & Allen are very good as Jean and her parents and Aylmer is downright spooky! Based on Roger Caris' play, "The Pony Cart."
© 2001 - Monica Sullivan - Air Date: 7/18/01
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