on 24 November 2008
In my youth the BBC ran a strand of films on Saturday evening entitled The Saturday Thriller. First off was Psycho, which was the first time I'd seen that movie, then came The Innocents which had a much greater effect on me. I have seen the former many times since and it is obviously a classic but I have only just seen The Innocents again and I was stunned at how creepy it really is, especially as I see more in it now than I did as a child.
At the time I first saw this movie my grandmother was living in a lodge house next to a rather neglected large country house, in front of the house was an area of long grass that was reminiscent of the scene where the figure of the previous, dead, nanny had appeared in the reed bed next to the lake in the film. I still get goose pimples thinking about the first time I stood there and remembered a scene from the film and ran back to my gran's house in terror. I never talked to anyone about it at the time but just recently found that my sister had had the same experience, scary indeed.
When I watched it again recently I was amazed at how powerful it is and only in a couple of places did the dramatic music and the histrionics snap me out of my suspended disbelief, this is a true classic of the genre but it is not comfortable viewing, leaving the audience unnerved for some time afterwards. I had over 40 years between viewings and I still remembered how creepy it was first time round.
on 16 September 2010
Once upon a time before special effects there was a fine art in cinema which used the viewer's mind to create effects which have not since been improved upon. Film makers during this period strived to maximise this through shot composition, art direction, light and shade, music score, simple editing, evocative cinematography and a style of acting to further enhance the desired effect in close relation to all of these disciplines and skills. 'The Innocents' is one the finest examples in this category. Engrossing and disturbing, always compelling. Lower the lights, open your mind and dare to let this black and white masterpiece contaminate you with endless psychological colour. You cannot fail to find yourself reflecting on its effect and feel the energy of its masterful delivery. Enhanced clarity in sound and vision via blu-ray.(I hope readers are not deterred from purchasing this disc due to some people receiving faulty discs, it is important to remember they are reviewing their experience and not the film. I suggest returning and requesting another if this happens, Amazon will accommodate I'm sure)
on 30 January 2013
There have been a few adaptations of Henry James' Turn of the Screw, but none come close to this. Like any Victorian novel, the film is slow at first. But gradually the tension is ratcheted up until before you know it you're holding a pillow close to your face. Something as simple as walking down a darkened corridor suddenly becomes the scariest thing imaginable. My wife was completely creeped out by it, switching on lights before bed.
But a quick note for some people. There are those that don't think this film is scary. These are usually people for whom 'scary' means blood and gore and lots of make-you-jump moments before a neat resolution where the hero lives, riding off with the romantic interest. If you come to this film expecting those types of scares, then you'll be disappointed.
True ghost stories play on the mind. They creep you out and stay with you far beyond the final frame or paragraph. They leave a nagging fear in even the most rational of us, while playing on our most basic instincts. More importantly, they rely on you watching from the beginning and entering into the film completely. No chatting, no wandering in and out. The scary scenes are scary precisely because of the carefully choreographed build up - which this film does better than any other film I can think of. But cut out the buildup, chat to friends or distract yourself on a smartphone while waiting for the 'scary bits' and you undo everything the film does in preparing you for the creepiest, most tense scenes you're otherwise likely to see.
Forget your serial killers and torture-porn. Forget cliched groups of attractive but idiotic teenagers being bumped off one by one in predictable, formulaic fashion. Forget the neat resolutions when everything is explained and life returns to normal. Those films are just a quick thrill, like a funfair ghost train where we laugh while we scream.
No. The classic ghost story is where the horror genre began when we were all small tribes huddled around camp fires. Ghost stories still fascinate us today, and The Innocents remains one of the best of them all.
on 16 December 2006
"The Innocents" is director Jack Clayton's screen adaptation of Henry James's story "The Turn of the Screw" (1898). A brilliant and fascinating exercise in psychological horror. Impressionable and repressed governess Miss Giddens (Deborah Kerr) agrees to tutor two orphaned children, Miles and Flora. On arrival at Bly House, she becomes convinced that the children are possessed by the perverse spirits of former governess Miss Jessel and her lover Quint (Peter Wyngarde) who both met with mysterious deaths.
The film's sinister atmosphere is carefully created through its cinematography, soundtrack, and design: Freddie Francis' beautiful photography, with its eerily indistinct long shots and mysterious manifestations at the edges of the frame; an evocative and spooky soundtrack; and the grand yet decaying Bly House.
Deborah Kerr gives the performance of her career and makes "The Innocents" an intensely unsettling experience. Are the ghosts the products of Miss Giddens' fevered imagination and emotional immaturity, or a displacement of her shock at the sexually precocious behaviour of ten-year-old Miles? Is she the protector or the corrupter?
Now widely considered to be one of the greatest of all ghost stories on film, "The Innocents" continues to inspire today's 'haunted house' movies, most notably "The Others" starring Nicole Kidman and directed by Alejandro Amenábar in 2001.
DVD Extras include a commentary with Professor Christopher Frayling, the original trailer for "The Innocents", the Oscar and BAFTA award-winning short film "The Bespoke Overcoat" directed by Jack Clayton, 1955, 33 mins (Clayton's first film as director) starring Alfie Bass and David Kossoff,
a stills gallery including original costume designs, publicity posters, press books and production pictures and a booklet including film notes by Jeremy Dyson (BBC's "The League of Gentlemen").
on 17 December 2006
A masterpiece of ghost-story cinema and haunting Victoriana. Wonderful adaptation of 'The Turn of ths Screw'. Takes the stage play 'The Innocents' and transforms it into a cinematic tour-de-force of innocence, corruption, dark secrets and above all ambiguity. The great thing is the ambiguity - the viewer is left to make up their own mind. Are the children being used by the ghosts of the dead servants (as it seems they were used by the servants when alive), are the apparitions real, is it all in the imagination of the repressed and hysterical governess, have the children been abused and corrupted, is it all a work of psychological symbolism (with the old mansion and the ghosts being used as symbols of the abuse of the children's innocence)? There is evidence to support all theories, which is exactly what Henry James intended with his story. Unlike the modern horror films which throw everything at you and don't allow your imagination to work, this film uses suggestion and ambiguity and stimulates your imagination.
The screenplay ('90% by Truman Capote') and script make great use of the old house and the images of decay and corruption amid its beauty and ornate Victoriana to show the dark heart of the tale. The cinematography in black and white cinemascope is used to perfection. The direction and the acting are all perfectly fitted to the story. In all, this creates a wonderful, claustrophobic and chilling world.
The BFI release DVD package is a thing to treasure. Apart from the movie itself there is a filmed intro and a commentary by Christopher Frayling, both of which give loads of fascinating backgound info and interpretation, a copy of Jack Clayton's 1st ever movie, and a lovely booklet.
A real work of art.
The Innocents is one of the most unnerving, unsettling, subtle and well-acted ghost stories you'll ever hope to see.
"If I should die before I wake," says 8-year-old Flora, kneeling at her bedside, "I pray the Lord my soul to take. Miss Giddens," she asks her new governess, "where would the Lord take my soul to?" "To heaven," Miss Giddens tells her. "Are you certain," Flora asks. "Oh, yes, of course, because you are a very good girl." "But I might not be," Flora says. "and if I weren't, wouldn't the Lord just leave me here to walk around? Isn't that what happens to some people?"
In Victorian England, Miss Giddens (Deborah Kerr) has been engaged to be the governess to Flora (Pamela Franklin) and her 10-year-old brother, Miles (Martin Stephens). The children live at Bly, an isolated country estate with a lake, many trees and statues and a huge, stone mansion. Their parents are dead, their uncle lives in London and wants no responsibility for them. They are cared for by Mrs. Grose, the housekeeper, two maids and, now, Miss Giddens. The children are eerily precocious with perfect manners and many secrets. Flora is smiling, agreeable and perhaps too alert. Miles seems at times adult beyond his years. He is charming and self-possessed. One evening the shutters slam shut and a candle blows out. "Don't be afraid, my dear," Miles tells Miss Giddens, "it's only the wind." He has been expelled from school for unnamed offences which caused "injuries" to other students.
Miss Giddens soon learns that there previously was in the mansion Peter Quint, the master's valet, who had been left in charge. "It was winter," Mrs. Grose reluctantly tells Miss Giddens, "the coldest, blackest winter night. The steps were icy. He came home late, full of drink. He had a wound on his head as though he might have fallen out there in the dark. There was things in his life that could account for violence done him, vicious things...It was Master Miles who found him. Oh, that poor little boy. If you could have heard his screams, seen the way he clung to him and begged him to speak. The poor little boy worshipped Quint."
Miss Giddens learns of another person, Miss Jessel, the former governess, a woman who became enraptured by Quint. She took his beatings with joy, shared in his pleasure of her in the mansion's rooms, unconcerned with what the children saw. Miss Jessel threw herself in the lake after Quint died. There is not only the presumption of evil, but of moral and sexual corruption infecting the two children through Quint.
The children whisper together, share secrets. Miss Giddens soon sees a faint image of a man on the tower of the house...a woman walking across a landing...a face at a window. "There are two of them," Miss Giddens tells Mrs. Grose, "two of those abominations. The children are playing some monstrous game. I can't pretend to understand what its purpose is. I only know that it is happening...something secretive and whispery and indecent. I tell you, believe me, the children are in dreadful peril." She resolves that the only way she can free the children of the effort by Quint and Miss Jessel to possess them is to force the children to admit what is happening. "The children are possessed. They live and know and share this hell. One word, one word of truth from these children and we can cast out those devils forever."
The conclusion is powerful and tragic.
This movie works so well because of Jack Clayton's unhurried direction, wonderful, eery, black-and-white photography by Freddie Francis, a literate screenplay (from Henry James' The Turn of the Screw) by William Archibald, Truman Capote and John Mortimer, and excellent acting all around. In particular, Deborah Kerr turns in one of the best performances of her career. She trembles on the edge of resolve and her own insecurities. Both the child actors are convincing. Martin Stephens as Miles carries the heaviest burden and he is unsettling as a cool and very disturbed, conflicted boy.
on 4 August 2007
A very short review,When I look at other,more bloodthirsty films,and their reviews,I remember the first time I saw the innocents.
The film starts off with Deborah Kerr..Miss Gibbons, Going to a country estate,house.to look after 2 vey strange children....I don`t want to give away the story.to people who have never seen the film...but the visitation/ghostly appearance (or was it) across a lake...and the whole atmosphere of the film..really made me not want to go out of the room..into the dark.......for a while....I have seen many more bloodthirsty films(liking a creepy film) but can honestly say non has had the effect on me as this briliant film...
on 7 March 2010
By far the finest adaptation of novelist Henry James' The Turn of the Screw, director Jack Clayton's exemplary ghost entry The Innocents boasts superb acting from all involved, a literate script from writers William Archibald and Truman Capote and classy production values. The Innocents makes the most of the story's ambiguous plot. What happens to Miss Giddens (Deborah Kerr) can be interpreted in many different ways, which makes this film an extremely effective psychological ghost story. A brilliant and chilling movie! This film gives me the creeps every time I see it. It has some amazing camera work courtesy of Freddie Francis, and an excellent complicated performance from Deborah Kerr which adds up to one of the best thrillers of the 60's. In fact, I like it better than The Haunting (not that The Haunting was a bad film, it's one of my favorites). The actors who play the kids are also very good, they're precocious and cold... and somewhat unsympathetic. Martin Stephens in particular stands out as the wise, clever little boy who may or may not be possessed. His acting here is on par with his great performance in the original Village of the Damned and he is truly believable. The images of Quint outside of the window and Mrs. Jessel across the lake are really hard to forget and adds to the creepy atmosphere along with the sound effects, which were similar to the ones in The Haunting. The images are hauntingly photographed in this film. As in The Uninvited and Dead of Night, the English countryside mansion here is a perfect setting for such a masterful retelling of James' The Turn of the Screw. You want to be respectfully spooked, in the best tradition? Then watch this brilliant British classic late at night with all the lights off...
on 17 April 2009
In my opinion this is one of the greatest films ever made. Beautiful, sublime,terifying; it is a work of art from start to finish, and literally transports you into a world of flickering shadow and mystery,but does it with such subtlety it is far more haunting and powerful than scores of other'haunted house' films.The cinematography is mesmerising,almost avnte garde, and the film never seems to date. Deborah kerr's face becomes a harrowed mask of nuanced fear and suspicion and she really should have been oscar nominated for this film, so riveting is her performance. peter wyngarde who plays the spectral presence of peter quint had his own stellar career which included playing the playboy sleuth jason King, and recording a cult surreal album called 'when sex leers it s inquisitive head'!! along with robert wise's 'The Haunting'this is one of the most unsettlingly atmospheric films ever made.
on 19 December 2010
With reference to the previous review by "samueltaylor" can we PLEASE clear up this myth once and for all about older movies being released on High Definition formats?
We are constantly hearing uninformed witterings along the lines of "Why bother to release old films on Blu Ray because they weren't shot in High Definition?", with the misconception being that there will therefore be no advantage to watching older movies in HD formats.
This is nonsense. Movies since the dawn of cinema were, and for the most part still are, shot on a substance called film. Film has many more times the resolution of Blu Ray Disc or broadcast HD television, in other words not even Blu Ray is capable of capturing all of the detail in an original film print, no matter how old the film is. Put simply, the image on film is of a higher definition than any domestic High Definition video format such as Blu Ray Disc.
So let's get it clear once and for all, film is of MUCH higher definition than any available domestic HD video format. Any movie, no matter how old, can benefit from a HD/Blu Ray release. The quality is all down to how carefully the studios have preserved, restored and transfered the film prints. Just look at "2001: A Space Odyssey" on Blu Ray - it is a 1968 movie of superior picture quality to some Blu Ray releases of films made in the last five years or so.
And on the subject of "The Innocents"? A superb transfer and well worth a Blu Ray purchase.