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Fallen Angel
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Reviews & Ratings for
Fallen Angel (TV) More at IMDbPro »

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18 out of 21 people found the following review useful:

Chilling, disturbing, brilliant (some spoilers)

Author: zoemanning
21 January 2004

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

I first saw this movie way back when I was a teen. I only watched the latter half of it, and it was so captivating that I spent the next few years searching for the full movie. At that time, I was doing school research on the topic of paedophilia and child pornography, and Fallen Angel was an excellent case study about how children can be lured into a world of porn and sexual exploitation which they are not yet ready for.

The story in short is about 12 year old Jennifer who felt neglected by her single-parent working-mom Sherry. She sought friendship and solace with softball coach cum child pornographer Howard, who in turn abused her trust to lure her into the world of child pornography. In the end, Jennifer must decide whether to move on with her life, or risk her reputation and face up to her painful mistakes to prevent Howard from harming any more children.

It would be easy to point the finger at the paedophile Howard (Richard Masur) and clueless mother Sherry (Melinda Dillon), but the characters are multi-layered and complex, which makes this movie so good and disturbing. Howard came from an abusive family, and so he tried to treat children with respect like adults. Unfortunately, he also fell in love with girls as if they were grown women, and he couldn't see that he was wrong in having sexual relationships with children or putting them in pornography. Despite exploiting Jennifer (Dana Hill), he was also shown as a caring and protective father figure to her, raising her self-confidence. Her mother Sherry worked hard to provide for Jennifer, but her neglect and relationship with another man pushed Jennifer away towards Howard. Even Jennifer wasn't totally innocent, as she seduced Howard into taking her in when she ran away from home.

The acting is first class. Amazingly, the late Dana Hill was about 16 at that time, but she managed to convey the image and innocence of 12 year old Jennifer convincingly. Richard Masur was perfect as a creepy paedophile, yet still manages to draw sympathy for his "condition". His character was both manipulative and child-like at the same time.

Fallen Angel doesn't defend paedophilia or parental neglect, but it does try to offer reasons and underlying circumstances for them. It also explores the budding sexuality and curiosity in children which adults tend to ignore until too late. Most importantly, it addresses the darker aspects of society that parents try to shield their kids from, which actually make them easy targets for exploitation.

Overall, Fallen Angel is an exceedingly good made-for-TV movie. It would serve as a reminder for parents to remain vigilant and to educate their preteen children against society's ills.

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14 out of 20 people found the following review useful:

amazing, disturbing tv movie

10/10
Author: rottenmat from texas
8 September 2002

I wholly disagree with the idea that the plot stalls and the behavior of "Howie" is inconsistent. The writers make it quite clear that Howard Nichols seduces both for sex and for business. What makes this movie creepy is that it is too good. The pedophile character is complex, and such a complex depiction would be unthinkable today. This is almost a period piece... It documents an era of innocence long gone. Word of warning.... don't use this film for its intended purposes... it's too bizarre for kids.

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12 out of 19 people found the following review useful:

Assured performances in an unsteady "warning" film

6/10
Author: moonspinner55 from las vegas, nv
22 May 2001

Richard Masur is exceedingly creepy as a pedophile who lures youngsters into kiddie-porno films, but this vehicle for his character can't quite create a plot out of these dynamics. Masur's relationship with disenfranchised youth Dana Hill is pseudo-friendly (he's really all business), so it comes as something of a surprise when he tells her near the end that he wants to be her lover. This is not consistent with the character, nor is it likely that Hill would find any revelations shocking at this point. What the movie does well is to show Hill almost absent-mindedly falling into the porn racket, turning her from an innocent latch-key kid into someone hard and manipulative (yet the filmmakers have her go all sweet and soft at the tag, as if finding the culprit repairs most of the damage). "Fallen Angel" isn't a great TV-flick, nor has it proved to be an important one, but it does have some frank dialogue and some emotional and disturbing scenes.

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6 out of 8 people found the following review useful:

A truly disturbing early 80's made-for-TV shocker

9/10
Author: Woodyanders (Woodyanders@aol.com) from The Last New Jersey Drive-In on the Left
21 September 2007

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

It's very rare that one sees a made-for-TV movie with any real edge to it, which makes this hard-hitting effort all the more startling. It's a truly shocking, upsetting and disturbing film which openly deals with an emotionally charged, morbidly compelling and undeniably unpleasant topic (in this case pedophilia and child pornography) in a surprisingly frank, unflinching, nonexploitative manner and hence delivers an unexpectedly sinewy punch.

Richard Masur, astutely cast against type (he often appears in countless movies as your dad's affably goofy best bear-drinking buddy), delivers a frightfully creepy and utterly believable performance as Howie Nichols, a seemingly nice and harmless fellow who coaches an all-girls softball team. Beneath his warm, cuddly, ostensibly placid veneer, Howie is a deeply sick and loathsome man, a smoothly ingratiating child molester who recruits vulnerable teenage boys and girls for an underground small town kiddie porn racket. Howie's latest potential conquest is confused, bitter 13-year-old Jennifer Phillips (an achingly fragile and susceptible Dana Hill in a remarkably gutsy, on-target characterization), whose messed-up home life -- Jennifer's hard-working widow mother (beautifully played by Melinda Dillon) has acquired a new boyfriend (the always excellent Ronny Cox) Jennifer doesn't like -- makes her an easy target for Howie's smarmy, pseudo-sensitive and mock-understanding affection.

The sordid subject matter skirts cheap, tawdry exploitation at its most base and reprehensible, but thankfully the film itself steers clear of crass titillation and remains firmly grounded in revealing, confrontational, genuinely provocative domestic drama due to Robert Lewis' tasteful, restrained direction, Lew Hunter's thoughtful, trenchant, grimly engrossing script, and uniformly superlative acting. Masur in particular has never been better, bringing an oily, skin-crawling conviction and, most striking of all, even a fair degree of touching pathos to his fascinatingly grotesque part: Howie's the pathetic, socially maladaptive result of severe parental abuse and neglect who honestly thinks there's nothing wrong with his unsavory carnal interest in adolescents. For once television's strict censorship code against explicitness helps instead of hurts a film, saving this movie from becoming gross, unwatchable filth. Still, "Fallen Angel" is just graphic enough to make one feel uncomfortable and thus comes recommended with reservations. All in all, it's understandable that when this potently unsettling film first aired it was a huge ratings hit and subsequently won an Emmy nomination for Outstanding Special Drama: It's an extremely powerful and gut-wrenching examination of the warped psyche and unbalanced sexuality of a predatory, unrepentant pedophile.

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13 out of 22 people found the following review useful:

Tense to watch

9/10
Author: robbytara from Atlanta
14 May 2003

I actually watched this movie at school of all places! It was in 1983 and I guess the school board wanted all young people to know about this disturbing topic. This movie is very tense for me to watch, I have a twelve year old daughter myself. This was a well made TV movie that I will give a solid 8/10.

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3 out of 4 people found the following review useful:

I remember this movie! And that's why I'm going to have my daughter watch it...

7/10
Author: Melissa Whisenant from United States
13 May 2014

I remember watching this movie when I was little...and I think (not sure) my mom and dad may have been wanting to teach me about the monsters out there. I think this movie is the best way to make our kids aware of the sick, twisted individuals that threaten to hurt our kids or change their lives forever. This is a must see for naive young girls who don't seem to "get" fully how there are monsters out there. Yes, some may say it will scare them. I'd rather have my daughter scared than have her end up a victim. I know it made ME wiser when I was little...cause I was just like my daughter....overly friendly-never meets a stranger.

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For educational purposes

7/10
Author: Brian T. Whitlock (GOWBTW) from WILMINGTON, NC
2 September 2015

Growing up shouldn't be painful. For Jennifer(Dana Hill, 1964-96) it's a battle. She's at odds with her mother. She resents her new boyfriend. All because her father was killed in a robbery. Since then, she refuses to accept him as a friend. So she goes out and participate in a softball team. Jennifer loves sports. Especially, gymnastics. She would meet a coach who is actually a pedophile: a person who takes a liking of children in a perverted manner. He takes a shine to Jennifer. Not only does he constantly takes pictures of her, he makes them very suggestive of them. Having her show a little skin made Jennifer uneasy. The mother worries about her, no matter how angry she is. After giving her a puppy, the pedophile did a shooting which she was told to be only in her unmentionables. After she did that, she said, "There, happy?" I would say, "Psst, Hey kid, YOU'RE BEING EXPLOITED!" After the pictures went in a magazine, the mother took action. After knowing the truth, the coach is exposed in court, Jennifer makes her move to bring him to justice. Child pornography is unacceptable. Exploitation of children is not a healthy lifestyle. Parents need to take action against adults who exploits children. Good parenting leads to happiness, bad parenting leads to pain and suffering. Be there for them. They are your world, no matter what! A strong movie. 3 out of 5 stars

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5 out of 15 people found the following review useful:

a really good movie!!!

10/10
Author: latricia7405 from United States
18 June 2008

I remember seeing this movie when I was a kid now, I am a full grown woman and I remember this guys face in my dreams. That movie is the measuring stick of child abuse movies, I loved it. I wish I could buy it on DVD. He played that role good!!!!! I don't know where I could get, I remember that when I watched this movie I was about 12 or 13 and I was scared to be by myself, so, if you ever find this movie please please watch it with your kids, it will make todays kids think twice about wearing tight clothes and stuff like that, being on my space, watch this movie young ones and it will change your mind, I PROMISE!!!!! thank you!!!!

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10 out of 26 people found the following review useful:

Disturbing

Author: Lynn from United States
15 November 2002

I first saw this movie when I was a child and had to sneak around my mother to watch it. The movie disturbed me enough that I searched for the title for 15 years, still remembering the movie, until I found it. This is probably not a good movie for children, since the parts I remember are not very good for small eyes to view.

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1 out of 20 people found the following review useful:

A movie to avoid at all costs!

1/10
Author: ChromiumVortex from United States
5 October 2013

Don't even waste your time on this sensationalistic piece of commercial tripe. "Fallen Angel" is not only another movie that takes a cheap shot at promoting pedophile panic politics, it was this film that opened Pandora's box for such. See http://www.westword.com/2004-06-17/news/age-inappropriate/. It played on the paranoia of American society at the time of its release. Richard Masur plays this oddball baseball coach named Howie who takes a liking to an adolescent girl named Jennifer. He is portrayed to act squirrelly and come on to the young girl at every opportunity that presents itself to him. Then he talks her into posing nude for him. You won't feel sorry for the girl. You'll just see her as another bratty adolescent girl who constantly craves for attention and likes making her own problems rather than as a genuine victim of sexual abuse or exploitation.

I am not mindless that some adults in positions of authority over pubescent and adolescent minors have a dishonorable propensity to pull rank with these youngsters in some of the most depraved ways. However, "Fallen Angel" implies that every man over the age of 21 who has ever shown even the slightest romantic interest in an adolescent girl is a prospective child rapist, while, in reality, the assertion that such men are pedophiles continues to be an argument rather than a conclusion of fact to this very day, and an extremely controversial argument, I might add. This movie plays on all of the insecurities of Americans over adult men taking any kind of romantic interest in adolescent girls. "Fallen Angel" paints its Howie character as this sex addict who lusts pubescent and adolescent girls and photographs them in the buff. The movie also inadvertently delves into the controversy over whether or not teen nudity on camera should be legal – a controversy that has surfaced repeatedly in the form of David Hamilton through the years. The movie does present an interesting scene at the beginning in which Howie has gotten a preteen girl pregnant, something rarely seen in these types of films.

You will find it interesting that the same year of this movie's release (1981), another film titled "Beau Pere" premiered in theaters. It was a French movie about a 30-something year old man who becomes intimately involved with a 14-year old girl after his wife dies. The girl in this movie is only one year older than the female protagonist in "Fallen Angel." This movie got rave reviews worldwide despite its controversial nature. When you compare both films with one another, it blatantly shows you that the American culture takes a diametrically opposing viewpoint to other cultures on the subject of romantic relationships between adult men and adolescent girls. The French are not as ready to push the pedophile panic button as we Americans are whenever they see a 13 to 15-year old girl walking down the street holding hands with an adult man, whereas Americans take a stubbornly hostile position on this issue despite the fact that most of us have at least one Loretta Lynn in our ancestry. Interestingly enough, in "Fallen Angel," you hear someone mention the word "pedophile" only once throughout the entire movie. That word was not used as frequently and compulsively back in the early 1980s as it is nowadays. "Fallen Angel" deceives its audience by painting Jennifer as this frail and easily manipulated innocent with no will of her own in the form of both her appearance and her behavior, whereas "Beau Pere" depicts the 14-year old female co-protagonist as this exotic, physically and emotionally precocious young girl blossoming into early womanhood who seeks a sophisticated relationship with an older man as opposed to a slippery one with a boy her own age.

My suggestion for all of you viewers is if you really want to see a movie that honestly depicts the horrors of pubescent and adolescent girls being sexually victimized, see "Things Behind The Sun" instead. That movie is about a 14-year old girl who is brutally gang raped by boys both the same age as her and not much older than her; all of them are under 18 years old, which is more realistic. Teenage boys have the most access to girls this young and the most opportunities to sexually victimize them. Moreover, "Things Behind The Sun" is based upon a true story, whereas "Fallen Angel" is not.

If you want to see a movie about the ills of adult men sexually preying upon pubescent and adolescent girls, see "Too Young To Die?" instead of "Fallen Angel." The female protagonist in that movie goes through torture at the hands of deviant older men until she ends up on death row at age 15; she is a girl who got the short end of the stick in life. It's a kind of movie that would even put tears in Roman Polanski's eyes. When I first saw "Fallen Angel," the first thing that came to mind is that if the producers of this film truly wanted to present a story about a little girl falling prey to a pedophile and child pornographer, why couldn't they have made the female protagonist only 6 or 7 years old instead of an adolescent so that this movie would have depicted the true ills of pedophilia, child molestation, and child pornography? Since the time "Fallen Angel" was released, numerous adolescent girls have put their dirty laundry on exhibition on daytime talk shows and bragged about all of their older adult sex partners. If you really want to see a movie about the ills of pedophilia, child pornography, and child molestation, see "Gardens Of The Night" instead. In that movie,the female protagonist is only 8 years old when she is kidnapped into a world of child sexual exploitation and pedophilia. "Gardens Of The Night" will make you cry towards the end of the movie and even during the movie. "Fallen Angel" won't. Avoid "Fallen Angel" at all costs.

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