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

Whistle Down the Wind (1961)

UK / 96 minutes / bw / Beaver, Allied Film Makers, Rank Dir: Bryan Forbes Pr: Richard Attenborough Scr: Keith Waterhouse, Willis Hall Story: Whistle Down the Wind (1959) by Mary Hayley Bell Cine: Arthur Ibbetson Cast: Hayley Mills, Bernard Lee, Alan Bates, Diane Holgate, Alan Barnes, Roy Holder, Barry Dean, Norman Bird, Diane Clare, Patricia Heneghan, John Arnatt, Gerald Sim, Elsie Wagstaff, Hamilton Dyce, Howard Douglas, Ronald Hines, Michael Lees, Michael Raghan. WTDW - cinematog b A number of movies have taken as their subject the mythopoeic tendencies of young minds, whereby they can generate fantastical explanations for misunderstood events, or even their own spiritualities—their own mythologies and religions, in fact. The Lord of the Flies (1963), based on the 1954 William Golding novel, is the example that usually springs most readily to mind; others include The Spirit of the Beehive (1973), Celia (1988), My Neighbor Totoro (1988) and, arguably, The Babadook (2014). First on the scene, though, and in my view the most effective of all of these—certainly the most poignantly beautiful—is Whistle Down the Wind.

In a small Lancastrian community, the three children of the Bostock farm—Kathy (Mills), Nan (Holgate) and the youngest, Charles (Barnes)—save a trio of kittens, the latest litter of farm cat Dusty, from being drowned in a sack by feckless farmhand Eddie (Bird). Charles tries to fob off one of the kitten on first his pal Jackie Greenwood (Holder) and then a Salvation Army street evangelist (Heneghan). The latter tells him that she can’t take the proffered kitten but that she’s sure Jesus will look after it. From this casual statement flows much later confusion. Continue reading