Born Innocent (1974)

Genres - Drama  |   Sub-Genres - Melodrama, Prison Film  |   Release Date - Sep 10, 1974 (USA - Unknown)  |   Run Time - 92 min.  |   Countries - USA  |  
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This 1974 made-for-television exposé still packs quite a dramatic punch despite its age. The reason Born Innocent remains effective is because it manages to criticize the juvenile reform system and the parents who send their children there without ever lapsing into preachiness or one-sided judgments. There are no villains in this film, just mistreated and misguided souls. Born Innocent also has a superb cast of actors who give strong but naturalistic performances; Linda Blair takes the top honors with her subtle, heartbreaking performance as a girl who transforms from a troubled innocent into a hardened troublemaker, but there are equally effective turns from Joanna Miles as the one caring teacher and Richard Jaeckel as the father who means well but is possessed of a terrible temper. Gerald Di Pego's script gives these dimensional characters a solid but unobtrusive framework in which to interact, allowing tensions to simmer slowly but surely to a memorable finale. Director Donald Wrye makes sure the horrific parts of the story pack a brutal punch -- like a terrifying confrontation between Blair and her enemies in the shower room -- but he balances these moments with plenty of gentler character moments and creates a style that is surprisingly lyrical given the dark subject matter. In short, Born Innocent is one of the more powerful made-for-television efforts of the 1970s.