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Previous reviews of this effective French melodrama oddly say almost nothing about the film's content, perhaps for fear of "spoiling" it for fans or in one case, implying they haven't seen it. Since the film is very difficult to obtain, I will deliver the goods.
The film is credited to a novel by Laird Koenig and a co-writer which googling fails to reveal as ever having been published, but the real source material is one of my favorite films, the largely unsung Jack Clayton opus OUR MOTHER'S HOUSE. This marvelously moody 1967 movie is notable not only for one of Dirk Bogarde's best roles, but also a classic musical score by Georges Delerue.
Director Serge Leroy simplifies the format -basically a tale in the wake of LORD OF THE FLIES of how young children left to their own devices can do the damnedest things, and instead of the heavy religious emphasis of the original we have a straightforward story. These four unsupervised rich brats, led by the precocious Sophie Renoir as the eldest, accidentally kill their Spanish housemaid, and decide to cover it up rather than going to the police. Their absentee parents are off in Ireland on a movie shoot and can't be bothered. A mysterious stranger, played by producer Alain Delon, takes advantage of the situation and lords it over the hapless youngsters until they manage to deliver the coup-de-grace.
Koenig had co-written the script for a once-in-a-lifetime summit meeting of "lone wolf" action stars, Terence Young's disappointing Western RED SUN, which united Delon with Charles Bronson and Toshiro Mifune, all three of them pioneers in a durable genre which has currently been revived in the form of George Clooney as "The American". Delon used him again for this picture, properly translated as CAREFUL, THE CHILDREN ARE WATCHING, and cast himself in a subsidiary role for a change, giving the kids most of the screen time, to good effect. Title is a pun, as it refers not merely to the kids aping adults, but more forcefully the negative effects of them being glued to the TV set, and its non-stop depiction of misleadingly "fun" violence.
Although there are some glaring plot holes requiring massive suspension of disbelief to keep the pot boiling, overall the film is perverse fun as we root for the kids despite their truly terrible antics. The adult world, as particularly personified by Delon's heinous character, is simply the enemy -might as well be orcs or the insects in STARSHIP TROOPERS.
After watching this film and several other of Delon's "forgotten" efforts made after he took charge and starting producing his own pictures I am convinced the time is ripe, within his lifetime, for re-evaluating his entire oeuvre. Delon made many all-time classics in the '50s and '60s, but I refuse to dismiss his very interesting later work, including two superb roles opposite Simone Signoret, and the completely misunderstood (and unfairly ridiculed) self-satire Le Choc.
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