John Korty – The People (1972)
Shy, introverted eager-beaver young school teacher Melodye Amerson (sweetly played by the adorable Kim Darby of Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark fame) takes a job at a remote, quiet rural farming community that’s isolated from the rest of the world. The job proves to be far more difficult and challenging than she initially figured: the students are extremely terse, reserved and uncommunicative, the other townspeople are every bit as reticent, mysterious and unapproachable, and everyone lives by a strict code which leaves Melodye feeling confused and alienated.
Melodye remains determined and persistent, making a slow but steady attempt at getting the students and other townspeople to open up so they can let her in on their incredible secret.
Directed with exceptional restraint, acuity and tenderness by John Korty (who later helmed The Ewok Adventure), sensitively scripted by James M. Miller from Zenna Henderson’s thoughtful, low-key, utterly beguiling novel, deftly acted by a top-rate cast which includes Dan O’Herlihy as a sage town elder, Laurie Walters as O’Herlihy’s fetching but repressed daughter, Diane Varsi as the token accessible kindly local who gives Melodye guidance and advice, and an uncharacteristically subdued William Shatner as a friendly “outsider” physician, this gentle, folksy, leisurely paced Francis Ford Coppola science-fiction TV movie parable works as a lovely, reflective, and oftentimes charming exploration of overcoming fear, how tightly held to superstitious beliefs can be very constricting, opening up to allow nice, well-meaning others to have a positive, eye-opening influence on your life, and a particularly moving sincere plea for accepting and understanding those individuals whose uniqueness defies rigidly set and highly restrictive preconceived notions of so-called “normality.” A beautifully lulling and poignant little gem. – Joe Wawrzyniak, IMDB user
Produced by American Zoetrope between THX 1138 and The Conversation, this was apparently a failed pilot, and it certainly feels like one with its very abrupt ending. Is it entertaining? Marginally. I most enjoyed the lurid colors and the kids’ drawings. Shatner fans will be disappointed by his minimal screentime, none of which features him drunk on brandied peaches.