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  • A father's religious beliefs are put to the test when he refuses a blood transfusion for his daughter on religious grounds, and the child dies as a result. The doctor who tried to save the girl's life charges the father with manslaughter.

    This is a thought-provoking film that does not take the easy way out. It would be easy to make a scapegoat out of the father's religion, or absolve him of responsibility by taking a fatalistic view. To this film's credit, it does neither, but strives to present all points of view with fairness.

    As topical, relevant, and fresh today as when it was made. Highly recommended.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    Location scenes at the beginning at Marsden with the (now gone) Marsden Pit Village and Souter Point Lighthouse in background. Typically good performance by Patrick McGoohan as a zealous, if misguided, physician. Excellent performance by Michael Craig playing a father torn between his love for his daughter and his religious belief. Disappointing performance by Janet Munro coming off her starring role in "Derby O'Gill and the Little People".

    Craig refuses a life-saving blood transfusion for his daughter who is injured in a boating accident and she dies from her injuries. McGoohan spurs a legal investigation and Craig is brought to trial for the manslaughter of his daughter. Amazing how ones prejudices change from the beginning of the movie to the end! In a climactic ending, Craig is found innocent of manslaughter but renounces his innocence and tries to commit suicide.

    The tone of the movie is highlighted by the dreariness of the early '60's working class lifestyle in the Northeast of England, a dreariness accentuated by the black and white filming.

    "His action - guilty as hell; his reason - innocent as heaven itself."
  • I have been desperate to see this film since I first read about it three or four years ago. Through the kindness of a stranger, I finally have done so. Why it has not been made available via VHS or DVD is even more of a mystery to me than it was before.

    County Durham, in the bleak north-east of England is the setting for Patrick McGoohan's second Sixties 'kitchen-sink' drama. His first was in the potentially even bleaker location of Sweden! His role in 'Life For Ruth' is, however, much more straightforward than his conscience-raddled postal clerk in 'Two Living, One Dead'.

    A blissful family day introduces us to a sweet little girl-child. In a tragic sequence of events she is badly injured in a boating accident on some rocks. She needs a blood transfusion. She doesn't get one. She dies.

    Using this excruciatingly sad canvas the story that unfolds is an exploration of how an individual trying to stand by his 'beliefs' is vilified and punished by his dissenting society. The events that the viewer has watched have been so extreme that we, the audience, have been plunged into that dissenting society and want the hapless religious zealot, played by Michael Craig with literally gritted-teeth, punished. The thwarted doctor, James Brown, played by Patrick McGoohan, declares !WAR! but finds that, as another James Brown has mentioned, "War! What is it good for?" By the end of the film McGoohan has communicated how his character's hot anger against the idiotic Craig and his guilt over Ruth's death has mellowed into sad regret for the girl and forgiveness for the tragic humanity that is her father.

    The film takes the audience through all the complex issues: Religion versus Secularism. Science versus Superstition. State versus Individual Right. Minority Belief persecuted by Majority Consensus. They are all wheeled out; it could be tedious but it is actually quite thought-provoking. You start the movie detesting Craig's wretched soul but by the end, whilst you don't support him, you have realised that this is a tough conundrum to solve.

    Because we had a side at the beginning we are as bewildered as the jury is, at the conclusion of the court-case. As British law requires no shadow of a doubt, then he must be acquitted.

    At the same moment Society forgives him, the man's own conscience awakes and he desperately admits both his guilt and his awful sin of pride that led to the entire disaster. He had seen himself as Abraham and had awaited the Angel that would come to stay the hand of death as a reward for his Faith. It was redolent of that old joke where the Holy Man runs to the church in the flooded village telling his flock to remain steadfast, for the Lord will save them. As his flock are taken away in boats he refuses help, saying the Lord will save him. As the final helicopter leaves with the final villager he spurns their help crying, the Lord will save me! As the water folds over his head and he drowns, his soul cries out to the Lord, "I believed in you! Why did you not save me?" And God's voice replies, "What do you mean? I sent you a boat. I sent you a helicopter. What more did you expect?"

    McGoohan's Doctor Brown saves this holy man from throwing himself under a bus but he can do little for the same man who is left on the cliff-top howling to the moon for the daughter that was lost on the rocks below him.

    May God forgive us all.
  • Filmed in Durham, 'Life for Ruth' is a surprisingly effective story about a man who puts his daughters life in the hands of God and ignores the advice of surgeons. Ruth dies and a court case ensues in which the tension of the situation is brought to a head. Well acted by Michael Craig and especially Patrick MacGoohan as a journalist who comes to see both sides of the argument. This is one of those typically British films with dignity that makes use of unusual locations.
  • 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.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    Also known as "Walk in the Shadow" (1966), this award-winning film is meticulously scripted, magnificently acted, superbly photographed, and, above all, genuinely dramatic and truly exciting. Janet Munro was nominated for the BAFTA award for Best British Actress of the year. Despite this important nomination and overwhelmingly favorable reviews, the movie died at the box office, both on its release in the U.K. in 1962 as "Life for Ruth" and in its U.S.A. release during January 1966 as "Walk in the Shadow".

    Audiences simply didn't take to seeing a grown-up Janet Munro. They overwhelmingly preferred her as a juvenile in such films as "Darby O'Gill and the Little People" (1959) and "Swiss Family Robinson" (1960).