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Nov 22, 2011Linda Blair has always been more likeable than what her talent, or lack thereof, should allow her to be, and ''Born Innocent'' is no exception. The film is a laughable cheesefest from beginning to end with no overtly dramatic plot points left unturned, but Blair's character arch is competent enough to care for her and keep watching.Quinto W Super Reviewer
Jun 10, 2009<I>Born Innocent</I> sparked a torrent of controversy when it was released as an <I>NBC World Premier Movie</I> way back in 1974. Tame by today's standards, it was the highest rated television movie that year due to the unparelled graphic nature (by TV standards) of its depiction of sexual abuse. Re-airings were heavily censored well into the 1980's, after public outcry following the original broadcast. The film was cited by the FCC as part of the justification for enforcing new family friendly, prime-time viewing standards. NBC was later sued in Olivia N. v. National Broadcasting Company, 126 Cal. App.3d 488 178 Cal. Rptr. 888 (1981) when it was alleged that the nework's broadcast of <I>Born Innocent</I> inspired the Coke bottle rape of a nine year old California girl. <B><I>BORN INNOCENT </I> (1974)</B> WRITTEN BY: Gerald Di Pego based on the 1958 novel by Creighton Brown Burnham DIRECTED BY: Donald Wrye Donald Wrye FEATURING: Linda Blair, Joanna Miles, Kim Hunter, Richard Jaeckel, Allyn Ann McLerie, Mary Murphy, Janit Baldwin, and Tina Andrews GENRE: <B>DRAMA </B> TAGS: LESBIAN RAPE <B>PLOT: Negative social forces and institutionalization alter a young, middle class teen's character and personality when she is thrown into a state school for girls after running away from home.</B> COMMENTS: Linda Blair perpetuated her reputation for lurid roles immediately following <I>The Exorcist</I> in 1974's <I>Born Innocent</I>. Blair plays fourteen year old Chris Parker, a sensitive, high-functioning girl from a highly dysfunctional home, thrown into reform school with a bunch of low-functioning savages for being a chronic runaway. Not that's there's any reason why Chris wouldn't want to remain at home in her family's tiny house, with a Freudianly-tortured, violently abusive father (Jaeckel), a brow-beaten, soul-charred, mentally absent mother (Hunter)l, or a timid, wishy-washy, ineffectual, brother (Vogel) who decides to betray her. The fact is, her parents remanded her custody to the court in retaliation for Chris informing on their abuse of her to third parties. The state girls' remand center is the cinematically stereotypical reform school: run by a semi-incompetent staff of idiots, with slovenly handlers, and idealistic, but disillusioned teachers. It's populated by the absolute dregs of society, including violent, physically abusive lesbian bullies. <I>Born Innocent</I> features some maudlin, scenes, such as one in which a pregnant girl is wrongly thrown into isolation, where nobody hears or responds to her screams as she miscarries. Yet the film is, despites it stereotypes and clichés, believable and thoughtfully written, presenting a dichotomy between its sensationalism and its introspective credibility. Joanna Miles plays Parker's somewhat idealistically naive academic instructor who realizes at once that Parker doesn't belong in a state school. The teacher exerts her tenuous influence in an attempt to protect Chris while helping her keep her sense of identity and resilience. It's a challenge, because Chris is caught between her defective family, the shortsighted juvenile system, and a pack of predatory creeps in her dormitory. The key is held by a callous, one-size-fits all bureaucracy, which lacks the sophistication and administrative nuances to properly handle Parker's case. The juvenile justice administration drops the ball and a conflicted Parker plunges into the depths of the reformatory's tier structure after a desperate escape attempt. The overall theme of <I>Born Innocent</I>, consistent with its title, is the old Romantic notion that people are born without fault, but are corrupted by society and its evil institutions. <I>Born Innocent</I> actually does a pretty good job of making it's argument. The reform school it depicts is a pretty appropriate place for most of its inmates. Yet classifying as a criminal a middle class and sensitive girl like Chris Parker for a victimless and justifiably motivated legal violation (running away from her abusive father), and then throwing her into a state correctional colony spirals to an almost inevitable result. Parker becomes mentally institutionalized, hardened, callous, and manipulative, as she begins to work the system in a calculated way. While not everybody buys the notion that environment and society are completely to blame for some individual's downfalls, <I>Born Innocent</I> successfully argues the point in Parker's case. It's worth noting that the focus of Creighton Brown Burnham's 1958 novel was weighted more on the humanitarian motives and optimistic efforts of Parker's instructor to elevate Chris from her tragic circumstances, than on the tawdry horrors of being confined in a reform school. <I>Born Innocent</I> is most notable for it's infamous lesbian rape scene, in which four teenage bull dykes ambush Chris in the shower and forcibly assault her with the handle of a toilet plunger. Shocking and sensational for the time of the movie's release, the scene is neither tawdry, nor salacious. It's an upsetting, frank depiction of a brutal, enraging violation. The sobering sequence calls attention to the deplorable fact that penal institutions of all sorts delight in refusing to prevent or adequately punish daily homosexual rape among other abuses. Yes, <I>Born Innocent</I> is a bit moralistic and this, along with some distinctively 1970's production elements make it seem a bit over the top by today's standards. It might be tempting to joke a little bit about the subject matter and tis treatment in <I>Born Innocent</I>. As such, it's also meaningful to retrospectively interpret the picture by the spirit of the times in which it was released. <I>Born Innocent</I> made a momentous dramatic impression on it's audience and generated years of discussion, outcry, and controversy. Most movies about girls' reform school are pretty deplorable, amounting to little more than an excuse for nudity and sex bordering on soft porn as a substitute for realism or meaningful storylines. <I>Born Innocent</I> is the exception, It approaches the serious filmmaking of several solid films about boys' reformatories, such as <I>Bad Boys</I> (1983) and <I>Scum</I> (1979). Addendum: Four days after the the September 10, 1974 NBC broadcast of <I>Born Innocent</I> nine year old Olivia Niemi and her female minor companion were raped with a Coca-Cola bottle by other minors on a San Francisco beach. The assailants later stated that they had watched and discussed the film, which inspired them to make the attack. Through her guardian ad litem, Olivia sued NBC. Her attorneys argued that NBC was aware from studies that suggestible personalities might imitate the crime depicted in the film. They further argued that <I>Born Innocent</I> was particularly likely to have such an effect, and that the network aired it without a sufficient warning in the interest of obtaining the highest possible ratings. Under article 1, section 7 of California's state constitution, the plaintiff demanded to present the factual issues to a jury, but this was denied by the judge, who instead, viewed <I>Born Innocent</I> in it's entirety and concluded that the movie did not promote violent or depraved actions. He rendered a judgment in favor of NBC. This judgment was overturned on appeal. The state appeals court reversed the ruling and remanded the case for a jury trial. The jury in the subsequent trial decided in favor of NBC. Olivia appealed to the California Court of Appeals which upheld the lower court's decision and observed that finding NBC liable would have a chilling effect on broadcast freedom of expression, and that television networks would become inhibited in the selection of controversial materials. Citing the 1964 case of New York Times v. Sullivan, the appeals court concluded that the deterrent effect of subjecting the television networks to negligence liability because of their programming choices would lead to self-censorship which would "dampen the vigor and limit the variety of public debate." Olivia N. v. National Broadcasting Company, 126 Cal. App.3d 488 178 Cal. Rptr. 888 (1981) Olivia N. v. National Broadcasting Co. 74 Cal. App.3d 383, 389 [141 Cal. Rptr. 511] (1977)Pamela D Super Reviewer
Oct 14, 2007This starred Linda Blair. It was ok but the book was much betterIda K Super Reviewer
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