In collaboration with a selection of the finest film blogs the infranet has to offer Lost Video Archive is proud to contribute this quality post to Blair Week, a six day extravaganza expounding on the virtues of Linda Blair and her legacy of quality motion pictures. Don't believe me? Just read on...
Who would cut an innocent cover insert?
United States - 1974
Director - Donald Wrye
Program Hunters Incorporated, 1988, VHS
Run Time - 1 hour, 32 minutes
Born Innocent is technically a women-in-prison film, but I say "technically" with a heavy dose of seriousness because it is not the kind of exploitation you expect from that subgenre. Born Innocent plays on the fears parents have of maladjusted or "different" daughters falling in with the wrong crowd or lashing out, and being sent to juvenile detention. Particularly because it was made for television, Born Innocent carries an air of fearmongering that defies any attempt to really "have fun" watching it. In a way though it prefaces Chained Heat by throwing innocent Linda into lock-down with a bunch of savage girls. She quickly learns what real rebellion means by getting her ass handed to her. But don't expect your typical women-in-prison antics here, not even the shower scenes have any "redeeming" qualities.
Director Wrye is definitely an advocate of traditionalism, having directed a number of films glorifying the rugged individual character of American myth. He seems particularly concerned with the effects of post-industrial society on the archetype of the American Family and the dream promised by postwar prosperity, especially as it relates to the expected roles for men. In a number of his films including The Man Who Could Talk to Kids, Divorce Wars, The Face of Rage and Heart of Steel among others, he looks at the ways in which the norms of masculinity and the father/husband figure fall short of mythic expectation.
Born Innocent (right down to the title) follows in this trend. Chris (Blair) has an abusive paranoid father and a cowed and vacant mother (Kim Hunter aka Dr. Zira!). After running away several times Chris ends up in a reform school for girls who, like herself are largely the product of broken or damaged families. While there, Chris in particular, but all the girls become the damaged goods we all expect to come out of a "correctional facility".
Of course, this operates on the unspoken assumption that women need to be protected, and it is men's role to do the protecting. What Born Innocent suggests is that if the role of the father/husband as guardian and provider of the family is undermined, the innocence of girls, and women is imperiled. If Chris's father can't act as her masculine protector ostensibly because his status outside the family is challenged, this will lead her to fall into corruption and impurity.It's a complicated story, but it is of course exactly what happens.
The controversy that surrounded this TV-film when it was originally broadcast in September of 1974 was largely due to the scene in which Chris is raped by the other girls. The scene was removed from later broadcasts and didn't reappear until home video. Allegedly the film inspired a real rape committed on a little girl by several other girls. The victim's family sued NBC and the case went all the way to the Supreme Court. Call me crazy, but I think it was the fact that it was women performing the act rather than men that was so abhorrent to the public. If it had been men, nobody would have blinked, because that's expected. Nobody sued the network because her dad knocked Chris and her mother around, they didn't need "inspiration".
Upset the normative gender status-quo and people get all riled up.
I'm just sayin'.
As far as I can tell author Creighton Brown Burnham hasn't written a damn thing else. This however is the novelization of the made for TV movie written by Bernhardt J. Hurwood.
All these rad sites have contributed great posts to Blair Week, go check 'em out:
Satan's Hope Chest - Chained Heat and Savage Island
Camp Movie Camp - Grotesque and Nightforce
The Horror Section - Hell Night
Full Moon Reviews - Bailout
Illogical Contraption gets Repossessed
Lines That Makes Things drops original Linda inspired artwork
Breakfast In the Ruins - Exorcist II
B Movies and Beyond - Summer of Fear
The Manchester Morgue - Rollerboogie
Happy Otter - The Chilling
Ninja Dixon - The Witchery
Unflinching Eye - Linda's fall from grace.
Lost Video Archive - Savage Streets and Born Innocent