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Forgotten Sins (1996)

A county sheriff is accused by his two daughters of having abused them. Under interrogation, and guided by his pastor, he thinks the devil has blinded him to his guilt and confesses. The ... See full summary »


Dick Lowry


Lawrence Wright (articles), T.S. Cook




Cast overview, first billed only:
William Devane ... Dr. Richard Ofshe
John Shea ... Sheriff Matthew Bradshaw
Bess Armstrong ... Roberta 'Bobbie' Bradshaw
Dean Norris ... Detective Carl Messenger
Brian Markinson ... Lowell Hart
Lisa Dean Ryan ... Rebecca Bradshaw
Timothy Patrick Quill Timothy Patrick Quill ... Stan Cooper (as Tim Quill)
Gary Grubbs ... Reverend Ralph Newton
John M. Jackson ... Wayne Everett
Ray McKinnon ... Steve Sweetler
Brandon Smith ... Sheriff
T.C. Warner T.C. Warner ... Laura Bradshaw
Matthew Faison Matthew Faison ... Attorney Leggert
Karla Tamburrelli Karla Tamburrelli ... Mrs. Gibbons
Julie Ariola ... Jerry


A county sheriff is accused by his two daughters of having abused them. Under interrogation, and guided by his pastor, he thinks the devil has blinded him to his guilt and confesses. The girls' accusations get more and more elaborate, involving satanic rituals, their mother, other police officers and neighbors. A memory expert is called into to clarify the growing confusion and can easily see the girls are lying. Written by anonyomous

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis



User Reviews

Let Sleeping Sins Lie
2 June 2002 | by rmax304823See all my reviews

In Mark Twain's Huckleberry Finn, Huck and Jim pick up two vagrant hitch hikers on their raft. Both of them are scoundrels fleeing the law and their hosts pay them little attention. Eventually one of the bums, with considerable reluctance and much coaxing from Huck and Jim, admits that he is a member of the European royalty. Wow! Royalty! Immediately he gets the royal treatment. They call him "sir", give him the choicest foods and the best place to sleep. The other vagrant meanwhile begins to brood and look sullen. After a time, he finally announces that he, too, has a hidden identity -- Not only is he also royalty, but he is the Dauphin, the lost son of the King of France! Since he now outranks the other hobo, the deference shifts to him. I hope I have the details right, I haven't read the novel in years.

Something similar happens near the beginning of "Forgotten Sins." Sheriff Bradshaw isn't really very close to his two teenage daughters. He tends to be stern and distant with them. The girls understandably feel neglected. Then, at a Christian Retreat, they are part of a group urged by a camp counselor to come forward and speak their minds. Another camp resident does so, telling her story, in which she was unjustly blamed for something and has been blaming herself ever since. The rest of the group cheer and gather round her and shower her with love, while the Bradshaw sisters frown sullenly.

As the girls board the bus to take them home, one of the Bradshaw sisters bursts into tears and tells the counselor that she is suffering too, because her father has been having sexual intercourse with her for years. They sink to the ground with their arms around one another, the young girl sobbing with relief at finally having revealed her secret.

Before you can say "corpus delicti," the girls are whisked away from their home and taken under the wing of the church, and Sheriff Bradshaw is arrested by his colleagues in arms. With a lot of encouragement from his pastor (this is a very religious family) he finally begins to recall vaguely, maybe, flashes of memory supporting his two daughters' accusations, the recollection of abuse now having spread to the second girl as well, and even tainted their mother's memory. The pastor is telling Bradshaw things like, "Don't worry about worldly punishment, think of your soul." And the guy is struggling to remember. Yes, he says, if the girls said I did it, then I must have done it because they wouldn't lie, even though I don't remember doing it.

His daughters' memories and accusations are by this time expanding along a trajectory probably familiar to anyone who knows what happened in Salem, Massachussetts, in 1693, and lots of similar contemporary cases. Dad's poker playing buddies are hauled into the fantasy too, although they prove to be not so accommodating as Dad and they angrily deny any wrongdoing. Soon enough we also get tales of Satanic rituals and all the rest of it. This family makes the Jukes look normal.

A shrink, Dr. Ofshe, is engaged by the prosecution to hypnotize the girls and the defendant and explore the situation, but instead of finding anything that supports the prosecution's case he ends up believing that the girls' stories are fantasies. It doesn't save Sheriff Bradshaw. Ofshe's frank analysis of the case is "lost" and Bradshaw gets a long -- a really long -- term in the slams and enters prison almost joyfully as a means of doing penance for some sin he can't recall ever committing. Right. It all sounds crazy.

It was real enough, though. This was an absolutely fascinating case based on two first-rate articles that appeared in the New Yorker in the early 90s, towards the end of this particular cycle of Satanic/child-abuse hysteria. For anyone interested in the details of what really happened, I strongly recommend the articles.

Thank God for a movie like this, coming when it did. Such a corrective was obviously necessary. Way too many innocent lives were being ruined by these kinds of memories, not just the accused but the nominal victims as well. You can only claim to be the heir to the throne of France for so long before you begin wondering why you can't speak French.

It's a reasonably well-done movie too, meaning it strikes me as slightly above average in most respects -- acting, photography, score, script, production values. Not much above average, but somewhat.

The sociologist and priest Andrew Greeley has pointed out that for all our overweening concern about political differences leading to bloodshed, if you examine human history you find that religion is the basis for more suffering than any other cultural trait. Even Gandhi came to realize that. Common sense and simple reasoning should get us out of the holes we dig for ourselves, but our religious identities seem to keep getting in the way. Everyone deeply involved in the church in this particular case was responsible for the uncommon degree of social loss experienced by the victim (not the girls, but Dad), his family, and the community itself.

This movie should be shown in every class taught about religious morality, social deviance, evidentiary law, criminal justice, and marriage and the family. The articles it is based on should be required reading. I think they're available in book form, "Remembering Satan,"

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Release Date:

7 March 1996 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

Recollected Memory See more »

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Aspect Ratio:

1.33 : 1
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