Review

  • Warning: Spoilers
    Like the other reviewers, I was desperate to see this movie again. It used to be a staple on ABC late night viewing and I had seen it about 15 years before and the power of the story stayed with me - it was unforgettable. Watching it again recently, I had not over estimated it's strength. Basil Deardon and Patrick McGoohan had just made "All Night Long", a reworking of "Othello" set among the world of swingers and jazz musicians. "Life for Ruth" was a dramatic departure for both star and director as it explored the moral issues of the right of religion deciding over human life. Janet Green wrote the screenplay - she had written the screen play for "Sapphire" in 1959, where Michael Craig played a racist policeman. Where to start with the magnificent performances by the three principals - Patrick McGoohan as the doctor who does not want to see little Ruth die in vain.

    When John (Michael Craig) and Pat Harris's (Janet Munro) little girl Ruth is injured during a seaside accident a blood transfusion is needed. But things are not straight forward - John is a member of an un-named religious sect who believe that if the body is "tainted" with foreign blood it shall not have life everlasting, so he refuses permission. Michael Craig gives a stunning performance, he plays John as a simple man who believes because that is what he has been taught - he is not a religious fanatic. Pat is different, she has been bought up as Church of England and has no qualms about agreeing but she loves John and stands by him. When she realises that John is past convincing she rushes to the hospital to give her consent to the operation but she is too late - Ruth has died.

    Overseeing all this is Doctor Brown (McGoohan) a zealous young doctor who is appalled that John has the power to make such a life and death decision. He instantly takes John to court on a charge of manslaughter. John, while grappling with his conscience - did he make the right choice, he knows he could not have made any other!!! People slander him in the street, Pat goes to stay with her sister and there is a confrontation with his brother in law. To make his moral dilemma even more muddy when John originally plunges into the water to rescue the children, he saves the neighbours boy, Teddy, first, as Ruth is in the boat but when he gets to her she is clinging to the rocks. So the neighbours are grateful and give him a haven - but as Teddy's mother says "If he hadn't saved Teddy, would we really be so keen". The trial finishes and now John finds he can't live with himself!!

    It is unbelievable that Janet Munro couldn't have forged a career as a top British actress after her marvellous, under stated performance as Pat, remembering she had been under contract to Walt Disney only a couple of years previously. Janet Munro, in 1962, appeared to have it all. Earning the title "Miss Television of 1958", she was seen by Disney and given a 5 picture deal - "Darby O'Gill and the Little People", "Swiss Family Robinson" where she was so appealing. She won a Golden Globe for the most promising new comer but longed to do more mature roles. Her role in "Life for Ruth" earned her a BAFTA nomination but even then her personal life was starting to unravel.

    Highly Recommended.