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OLIVIA BARASH AS SYLVIA ON LITTLE HOUSE ON THE PRAIRIE

year: 1981 cast: Olivia Barash, Matthew Laborteaux, Michael Landon, Royal Dano rating: ****1/2
Don’t let the flowery title fool you: LITTLE HOUSE ON THE PRAIRIE can be intense, gruesome, and downright creepy: and this two-part episode, named after the title character… a young girl who’s raped by a mysterious man wearing a clown mask… epitomizes all this – in droves.

Olivia Barash, as “Sylvia,” a sweet pre-teen exuding a haunting, docile innocence, has “blossomed” early – causing the locals, including bad boy Willie Oleson and good boy Albert Ingalls, to take interest.

Her father, played by veteran actor Royal Dano, blames her for the chaste curiosity and impending sexual assault: the latter a harrowing (though implied) scene mirroring theatrical early-eighties horror films, but being in a kid-friendly TV show, it’s that much more shocking.

A sweet-natured love story between Sylvia and Albert plays within an ominous, foreboding backdrop... Although we never know the rapist’s identity till later, there’s a good chance it’s blacksmith Richard Jaekal, no stranger to dramatic villain roles.

For Michael Landon, who wrote and directed the episode, SYLVIA is a risqué feature film in itself, sublimely balancing old-fashion romance with calculating terror. But it’s child-actress Olivia Barash (who’d grow up to star in racy cult flicks REPO MAN and PATTY HEARST) that really makes it work, brandishing every possible emotion within a two-hour frame.
Interview Selection with actress OLIVIA BARASH
Was it difficult filming such intense subjects at a young age?

Nothing on that set was difficult because Michael Landon was directing. One of the best directors I’ve ever worked with. He would emote me by crying behind the camera in the rehearsals as well as the shooting of the intense scenes.

That particular cast of actors was amazing to work with! From Matthew Laborteaux, to Royal Dano, who played my abusive father, to Richard Jaeckel who played the rapist. All, highly professional, veterans and genuinely good people.

How did you play the death bed scene?

I put myself in Sylvia’s heart. I believed in that moment that I wanted to marry Albert more than anything else. I also just recalled the emotion that Matthew Laborteaux put forth for and with me in that scene. It was so hard not to cry after my character died, when Albert layed his head on me, sobbing.
title: LITTLE HOUSE: THE MUSIC BOX year: 1977 cast: Melissa Gilbert, Katy Kurtzman rating: ***1/2
In a standout episode of LITTLE HOUSE ON THE PRAIRIE, that infamous rich bitch Nellie Oleson has a music box and poor little Laura Ingalls really, really wants it. It’s that simple? You wish!

Laura, after swiping the box from Nellie’s bedroom during a private club meeting, hides it in her barn. And whenever needing a “fix,” she goes inside and listens to the chiming, metronomic tune that, after hearing it a dozen times, might drive you crazy. It sure does Laura… as the tune permeates into surreal, creepy, guilt-driven nightmares connecting herself to what looks like the Salem Witch Trials.

The standout guest star is Katy Kurtzman, who in the next season would play a young Caroline Ingalls… Here she’s a sweet stuttering prairie girl named Annie who Nellie keeps from joining her club because… she’s just not normal enough, in Nellie's estimation, to belong.

During one scene Nellie recites an impromptu poem that seems written by Mohammed Ali: “A chicken can squawk and a butterfly can flutter… But Anna can’t talk… All she can do is stutter!”

This (and other classic Bad Nellie moments) makes for a classic episode: Especially after "The Prairie Bitch" Nellie catches Laura with the Music box and blackmails her into a form of mental slavery. And as Laura conceals the truth, she breaks poor Anna’s heart... All leading to a climactic emotional scene that proves Katy Kurtzman, who stutters and cries at the same time, was one talented child actress.
title: CHILD OF GLASS year: 1978 cast: Steve Sims, Katy Kurtzman, Olivia Barash rating: ***1/2
While it's perplexed adults for centuries, the children in Disney films seem to have grasped the Meaning of Life… at least in their eyes: When something needs discovering, discover it!

In this made for TV movie, a family moves into an antebellum mansion once owned by a river pirate. The mother and father are about as important as those mushmouthed teachers in Peanuts cartoons – this is all about the curious son Alexander, played by the late Steve Shaw, who meets the niece of a local palm reader.

And as the young adventurous "Blossom Culp," Katy Kurtzman creates a memorably quirky tomboy: Donning glasses and dressed like a traveling orphan, she determinedly riles Alexander into seeking the truth behind the mansion's history. But he gets the prime directive on his own with the help of a blue-hued ghost.

The daughter of the mansion’s former owner, “Inez Dumaine” died mysteriously and, to acquire eternal rest, provides a riddle that desperately needs solving. Cult actress Olivia Barash, as the lovely little wraith holding a fluffy dog, makes sporadic yet important appearances, and at one point turns human for a heartfelt slow dance during a party, later providing a dog/cat chase to add some lightweight hijinx to the underlying spooky vibe… especially with the dependably villanious Anthony Zerbe on board. But even with the suspenseful chills, it's a great movie for kids, especially creative ones.
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2 comments:

  1. Child of Glass is a great classic children's film!! However, the name of the character Olivia Barash plays in it is Inez Dumaine, not Ida, as stated in this article.

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