“I knew that sooner or later you’d be taking that little girl off alone.”
A man (Stuart Whitman) imprisoned for intent to molest a ten-year-old girl tries to start a new life for himself, with the help of his psychiatrist (Rod Steiger). Things seems to be looking up for him when he secures a good job and falls in love with a widowed single mother (Maria Schell); however, when a reporter (Donald Houston) writes a story accusing him with intent to abuse Schell’s 10-year-old daughter (Amanda Black), he finds himself damned to relive his past.
Genres, Themes, Actors, and Directors:
- Falsely Accused
- Maria Schell Films
- Rod Steiger Films
This earnest depiction of a pedophile attempting to live a “normal” life ultimately bites off more than it can chew. Despite featuring fine performances by its two leads (Stuart Whitman and Maria Schell), the movie is done in by its vapid Freudian analysis, a cliched performance by Rod Steiger as Whitman’s Scottish-brogued psychiatrist, and a script which refuses to deal honestly with the messy reality of pedophilia. Unlike in the book it’s based upon, Whitman’s character (Jim) never actually molests a girl here, thus complicating our notion of his guilt; and, because his urges are explained away as stemming from a dysfunctional childhood, we are meant to understand that Jim is truly a “good man” who simply strayed from the path of righteousness.
In the second half of the film, when Jim finds himself the unfair object of a scathing witch hunt, we are clearly meant to sympathize with him — yet it’s difficult to feel warmly towards a pedophile, and thus, our loyalties are divided. If only life were as nice and neat as in the movies, every “Jim” in the world would deserve a second chance, and there would be no need to penalize a sex criminal for his past crimes; unfortunately, however, this is merely wishful thinking. For a much more authentic look at a pedophile struggling with life after prison, see Kevin Bacon in The Woodsman (2004).
Redeeming Qualities and Moments:
- Maria Schell as Whitman’s sympathetic love interest
- Stuart Whitman as the world-weary ex-con
No. This dated psychodrama — while daring in its intent — remains an unsatisfying and disappointing film overall.