Bryan Forbes's directorial debut was a beauty. Not satisfied to cut his teeth on a proven commercial vehicle, he used the unique novel by Mary Hayley Bell as the basis for this unique film. In today's world, anyone proclaiming himself to be Jesus Christ would be whisked away by the
authorities before many moments passed. And children today are a lot keener on life's realities than they were a quarter of a century ago, perhaps due to the influence of television. But on a grim Lancashire farm, a man claiming to be Christ wins the trust of three motherless children who have
been strongly influenced by their strict religious training. Mills is the eldest of Lee's children; the others are Barnes and Holgate. The trio finds a bearded man hiding in the family barn. Beards are not common in that area, and when Mills asks the wild-eyed fellow who he is, he mutters, "Jesus
Christ." They take him at his word, and do their best to shield and care for him. Only later is it revealed that Bates is a fugitive criminal.
This could have been a mawkish movie if it had gone over the edge, but Forbes kept matters realistic and still managed to enfold several bits of New Testament symbolism into the picture without hammering anyone on the head. The novel's author was Mills' mother (and wife of actor John Mills), and
although there is no proof that she wrote the book with her daughter in mind, the youngster was surely the right choice for the role. It was her fourth movie; she had already completed TIGER BAY, POLLYANNA, and THE PARENT TRAP before this. Bates was wonderful in his difficult role. Prior to this,
he had established himself as a stage actor and had appeared in THE ENTERTAINER the year before in his debut. Holgate and Barnes are so delicious in their naivete that they almost steal the film from Mills. It's an allegory, the second film produced by actor Richard Attenborough, who later became
the Oscar-winning director of GANDHI.
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- Rating: NR
- Review: Bryan Forbes's directorial debut was a beauty. Not satisfied to cut his teeth on a proven commercial vehicle, he used the unique novel by Mary Hayley Bell as the basis for this unique film. In today's world, anyone proclaiming himself to be Jesus Christ wo… (more)