Secret Witness (1988 TVM)

US / 71 minutes / color / Just Greene, CBS Dir: Eric Laneuville Pr: Vanessa Greene Scr: Alfred Sole, Paul Monette Cine: Matthew F. Leonetti Cast: David Rasche, Paul Le Mat, Leaf Phoenix (i.e., Joaquin Phoenix), Kellie Martin, Barry Corbin, Paddi Edwards, Deborah Wakeham, Dean Wein, Kendall McCarthy, Eric Love, T.C. Ryan, Jeff O’Haco, Eric Harrison, Betty Bridges, David Raynr

Although its two lead protagonists are children, this is arguably not a children’s movie. I’m not sure it’s entirely a movie for adults, either, since, while it deals tangentially with adult subjects like sex and adultery and features a psychopath, it doesn’t do so in any especially analytic and/or graphic fashion. For similar reasons, it doesn’t really cut it as a family movie, either. Best just to take it on its own terms, then, and enjoy it as the lightweight piece that it is.

Kellie Martin as Jenny

Leaf (Joaquin) Phoenix as Drew

Of course, there are plenty of movies that have child protagonists yet aren’t aimed at children—or, on occasion, even suitable for a youthful audience. Writing now, late on a Sunday night, just off the top of my head, I can think immediately of a few noirish examples: Continue reading

Tiger Bay (1959)

UK / 102 minutes / bw / Independent Artists, Rank Dir: J. Lee Thompson Pr: John Hawkesworth, Julian Wintle, Leslie Parkyn Scr: John Hawkesworth, Shelley Smith Story: “Rodolphe et le Revolver” (n.d.) by Noël Calef Cine: Eric Cross Cast: John Mills, Horst Buchholz, Hayley Mills, Yvonne Mitchell, Megs Jenkins, Anthony Dawson, Meredith Edwards, Shari, Christopher Rhodes, Kenneth Griffith, George Pastell, George Selway, Marianne Stone, Marne Maitland, Brian Hammond.

After a long stretch at sea, Polish merchant seaman Bronislav “Broni” Korchinsky (Buchholz)—who himself spells his name “Koverzynski”—arrives back in Cardiff docks with £95 back pay in his pocket, intent on proposing to his lover, Anya Haluba (Mitchell). He finds that she’s gone from the flat for which he sent her the rent; it’s now occupied by an evident good-time girl called Christine (Shari). Getting Anya’s new address from seedy landlord Dr. Das (Maitland), Broni goes to have it out with her, en route picking up tomboyish petty pilferer and compulsive liar Gillian “Gillie” Evans (Hayley Mills), who lives in the same block as Anya. There, he finds that Anya has taken up with another man—as we in due course find out, he’s married sports broadcaster Barclay (Dawson). When Anya pulls a gun on Broni they struggle and he takes the weapon from her; moments later, as she shrieks imprecations at him, he shoots her dead in a jealous rage. Watching all this through the flat’s letterbox has been Gillie.

Tiger Bay 1959 - 2 Anya (Yvonne Mitchell) fights fire with fire

Anya (Yvonne Mitchell) fights fire with fire.

Tiger Bay 1959 - 3 Chorister Gillie (Hayley Mills), picture of innocence

Gillie (Hayley Mills) the chorister: butter wouldn’t melt in her mouth, would it?

Gillie manages to steal the gun and its remaining bullet. During a wedding at the church in whose choir she sings, she swaps the bullet with a fellow child-chorister, Dai Parry (Hammond). Broni, who knows that she has witnessed at least part of the crime, has followed her to the church; when everyone else has cleared off after the service he Continue reading