on May 1, 2004
The Innocents, featuring an excellent performance by Deborah Kerr, is a perfect example of why less can be so much more when watching a psychological thriller. Even after forty years this masterpiece still delivers the thrills and scares. The Innocents not only makes the viewer think, but it provides many jolts which will keep any seasoned horror/suspense buff on his or her toes. This film is definitely worth seeking out, although, unfortunately, it has yet to appear on DVD.
on January 14, 2004
I saw this movie for the first time on cable last week; I was about to go to bed when I caught this from the halfway point, right when Deborah Kerr as the Governess, is playing hide and seek with the children and sees through a window, the ghost of Peter Quint. Beginning as a silhoette, he slowly glides into the reflected light from inside and fixes her with his dead stare. Then he glides away again, with only the light in his dead eyes shining in the darkness. It literally sent chills up my spine and made my eyes water! And I bow to any movie that can do that! I was completely transfixed from that point on and stayed up until the very end. You know a good movie when you're sad that it's over, and I was. I wanted it to go on and on! I think I would have watched it til dawn if it had lasted that long. Rare is a movie this affecting and atmospheric. It was literally a sensual pleasure, albeit a tension filled one--to take it in!
All of the ghost sightings are handled in a powerfully surreal way. The sight of Miss Jessel's ghost on a distant bank is inexplicably terrifying, maybe because her blank stillness is so incongruous with what we're used to in this genre, which usually depicts ghosts as being in various stages of raging histrionics. Somehow, the stillness of this one terrifies more. Her stillness creates an unbearable tension. You feel on the edge of your seat with the idea that she may suddenly look at you, or scream, explode somehow into violence, so that finally the very idea that she may move at all is unbearable, and it's a relief when the camera cuts away from her and she's off the screen. (Although as with any good suspense, you want it to come right back and scare you again!)
I was taken aback by both the unusual ending and the adult nature of the story; they both give this film an "ahead of its time" distinction. In addition, it's so artfully filmed and conceived, almost like Cocteau's "Beauty and the Beast", and definitely a sister to "The Haunting" which, up til now, had been my favorite ghost-themed film. (Not anymore! Much as I love "The Haunting", it looks like an episode of Scooby-Doo next to this masterpiece! ) Likewise, "The Others" which had been another favorite, doesn't shine quite as brightly now that I've seen this. Good as it is, "The Others" is really just a remake of this much earlier film with a few plot points tweaked and a new title tacked on. It's effective, but I think "The Innocents" is more so.
I was immediately obsessed enough with the story to buy the book it was based on ("Turn of the Screw") which I thought it served very faithfully, and the screenplay, co-written by Truman Capote, even managed to enhance and improve the original story.
Having purchased this film on VHS, I can attest that it's one of those rare films you can watch over and over without getting tired of it. There's always something new it it, and although it's sad and suspenseful, there's a lulling quality to it that is strangely comforting to curl up to with a bowl of soup and a blanket.
Bring on the DVD!
on May 1, 2004
Without doubt, this is the definitive version of Henry James' "The Turn of the Screw." The acting of Deborah Kerr as the governess is superb, as are the performances of the actors playing the two posessed children. Filmed in atmospheric black-and-white, this is one film that deserves the full DVD treatment. My only reservation is with the title. While appropriate, it should have retained the title as given by Mr. James. Five stars!
on August 4, 2003
Adaptation of the story The Turn of the Screw, I really fell in love with this film and was totally hooked on watching it over and over.....
Deborah Kerr's character is hired as a Governess to care for two young children. Both children were mainly in the care of their very well-to-do Uncle that is not so great at taking care of anything but his own needs but his niece and nephew are looked after well inspite of his ego. Kerr's character is interviewed by the Uncle to care for his young family and was somewhat persuaded to take the job because of his flirtations win her over.
Little did she know that upon entering the job, the new Governess was quickly hurried to a mansion in the country away from everyone and anything. The children had a house-maid that watched over them but she couldn't be a Mother like the job entitled her to be. The children lost their parents when they were very young and they both went through two prior tenants that Kerr was instantly replacing as Governess. She was told that both tenants had died but not how within year of her new job.
Kerr fell in love with the children and quickly noticed how much they both loved one another as siblings. So much love, that they took on strange and frightining personalities that began to scare the Governess. Obligated to find the answer for the behavior, Kerr nearly met her own death and termination of her job while trying to take hold of the forces that were around her and beginning to take shape physically.
I loved this film and I will not reveal the entire story but I will say that it didn't " drag along " the story. It is worth it's weight and gold!!!!
on June 25, 2003
There have been some great horror films in the 20th century. Hitchcock was responsible for probably a half dozen himself. The more recent "The Others" comes to mind, and "The Sixth Sense". But nothing compares to Henry James' tale of horror in Turn of the Screw, aptly named THE INNOCENTS for film. Deborah Kerr is perfectly cast as the governess of two children who seem to be possessed by two tragic ghostly figures that only the governess can see. Creepy, haunting, a movie you probably don't want to watch alone, though I have. Great cast. Director Jack Clayton has the perfect touch. Though I am giving the film itself 5 stars, I wouldn't give the VHS version a high mark at all. The audience is forced to watch this magnificent film in the dreadful 'full screen' mode. All we see are mouths and noses at times. If the studio doesn't want to release the film on DVD, at least bring out a special 'wide screen' VHS version so we can see the movie as it should be seen. Or, better yet, release THE INNOCENTS on DVD. It deserves as much attention as most classics.
on March 6, 2003
I saw this when it first came out, and the performances by the children, Miles and Flora, show acting skills far beyond their years. Calling Ms. Kerr, the governess, "Miss Giddons dear" and faintly mocking tones, they dominate the movie; their haunting and possession by the dead servants, Quint and Miss Jessel, are something to see. One of the scenes that scared me the most was the one where Flora is dancing, in the little stone gazebo, to the haunting music box theme, by the lake, and the dead Miss Jessel appearing, watching her from the middle of the lake, seemingly suspended on some water plants, looking sad in her black mourning dress. Flora seems to be dancing for her, and the effect is chilling. The entire movie has a neverending undercurrent of terror, albeit quiet terror, and you never know, literally, what is around the next corner of the vast house. Quint appears to Miss Giddons, outside a window, during a game of hide and go seek, and Miss Jessel glides eerily by a hallway, in her requisite black mourning dress. The housekeeper, Mrs. Gross, stands by the children and refuses to believe they are anything less than "innocent", while Miss Giddons adopts a more pragmatic (and accurate) view of how damaged and under the influence of these two entities the two children really are. Miss Giddons has a dramatic showdown with Flora, by forcing her to acknowledge the existence of Miss Jessel in the scene by the lake, and afterwards the traumatized Flora is taken away by the housekeeper and Miss Giddons is left alone in the house with Miles. The final scene was, and is, still shocking even by today's standards, as Miss Giddons kisses the dead child, Miles, on the mouth, with disturbing passion, but the scene fits perfectly into the story and underscores the complicated and turbulent relationship Miss Giddons has with the children, expecially young Miles. Filmed on one of those incredibly sumptuous estates that are so plentiful in England, the cinematography is superb, and this really should be viewed on DVD, with the sharpness and clarity of the original.
on January 29, 2002
There have been several adaptations of The Turn Of The Screw, but none as effective as this 1961 gem. Working on the axiom that less-is-more, Clayton shows remarkable and deliberate restraint, and it pays off.
Kerr plays governess to two children one of which may or may not be the victim of possession. Anything more would be giving it away.
Certainly in the top ten list of Horror/Ghost story films of all time, The Innocents compares favorably with "The Haunting" (the original '63 version). Kerr's spectral visions are as solid as the furniture -- they're just harder to find, and lot scarier; the film is an example of how little one needs to resort to SPFX when one knows how to make drama.
On the down side the original was photographed in lush monochrome cinemascope, and the only version released to date (that I'm aware of) is pan-an-scan, so you're missing about 40% of the image.
Still, even in this limited form, "The Innocents" is as scary as anything that's come out of Hollywood inthe last twenty years (er, I mean deliberately scarey -- the remake of The Haunting was scarey for all the wrong reasons).
Please let there be a DVD soon!
on September 29, 2001
The Innocents is far and way one of the most effective ghost stories ever commited to celluloid. Deborah Kerr stars as Miss Giddens, a timid governess who believes that the house she is in charge of is being haunted, and that the two children in her care are being corrupted by the evil ghosts. Based on the short novel "The Turn of the Screw" by Henry James, the film manages to successfully tackle the pivotal mystery of the story, which is that the viewer cannot be sure whether the ghosts are real, or just a figment of the governess's imagination. The scenes in which Kerr sees the apparitions are extremely well done. On one occasion, a sombre figure in a black dress is seen standing on the far bank of a lake, in another, the evil face of a man appears through the gloom outside of a window. The ghosts appear for just long enough and just indistinctly enough to scare the pants off poor Miss Giddens, not to mention the viewer! Shot in stunning black and white cinemascope, and beautifully showing every period detail, the film has some amazing scenes utilizing very deep focus, which is used to great dramatic effect. Deborah Kerr gives an excellent performance, depicting the governess's slide into hysteria, as do the two children; you can never quite tell if they are behaving perfectly innocently, or are in league with the spirits, which is just what is intended. I really recommend this film, along with the 1963 film "The Haunting" as the most frightening portrayal of ghosts in the cinema.
on July 8, 2001
Yes, it's that kind of movie WHEN you think you see something out of the corner of your eye, you turn, and THERE it stilll is!
A masterful adaptation of the James novel "The Turn of the Screw" - perfectly realized on widescreen [I'm lucky I do have "that" copy too] by British director Jack Clayton who previously brought us "Room At The Top". This work is crying out for a DVD restored release, in wide-screen, with glorious surround sound. See this on a cold, dark, wintry night!
This decadent old Victorian mansion is slightly better than the Bates motel - and it has more rooms. During Deborah Kerr's tenture we are privileged to see just a few of these rooms, and the garden, and the pond with - - just what is it in the reeds out there? I can't quite make that out........
It's a wonderful departure for Ms. Kerr from Anna, the "other" governess. She triumps in this role - prim, proper, and she slowly led [by the two brilliant child stars : Pamela Franklin and Martin Stephens] into this world of eroticism and corruption. You see, she's sent, by their disinterested uncle, to look after, firstly the little girl, then the young boy is expelled [?] from his school and she has two charges, or are they now in charge of her? The subtle corruption is sublime and frightening. Worthy of mention are the scenes in the class-room, when Ms. Kerr is having a "psychic experience" with the previous governess, "the shadow" against the bright sun, in broad daylight, from the tower, the "person" in the reeds and the "tucking in" scene with young Martin Stephens, how did they get that kiss past the censors? NOW THAT's a child actor!
QUESTIONS: Are the children Corrupted, suffering from an attention disorder or are they just Posessed? This is "The Exorcist" without the pea soup. This time the demons are there, but they only allow us [wily things that they are] glimpses.....like the "tucking-in" scene. About the governess too - is she imagining these "things", after all - she's the only one aware of this. The rest of the scant staff is totally oblivious, OR are these visions a product of an encorseted Victorian mind on the edge?
AND the sound-effects are brilliant - those eerie little country night sounds......
TRIVIA: Other versions have followed - I can recall at least three, and these are shortened and in color [the nerve!] Stop - this is the only version. There's also the Opera by Benjamin Britten [David Hemmings debut]. A version available on DVD by Petr Weigl - but that's a different tail [too much tail].
AND for the real trivia buffs - what happened to Michael Winner's "NIGHTCOMERS", the prequel to this? Starring Marlon Brando [fresh from Paris], its more of a "Last Tango at Bly" - another lost bon-bon.
Enjoy this one with the spectres you love!
on June 12, 2001
What can I say that hasn't already been said about this film. This is a perfect example of the little cliche "they don't make em like they used to."
This Freudian psychological drama is a truly terrifying experience. Sporting a powerful and perhaps the best performance of one of the finest actresses, Deborah Kerr, this film uses the power of suggestion, creepy atmosphere, and fleeting ghostly images to give you the pungent sense of evil. Are the children being taken advantage of by abominable spirits so they may be corrupted or is the repressed Ms Giddons simply imagining or misinterpreting coincidence? Personally I think the spirits really are doing this, but for reasons regarding spoiling I won't put my reason why in this review.
This is one of the few movies to ever give me nightmares/"tryingtofallasleepmares". When I think of the cruel yet pityful Ms. Jessel and Peter Quint courting eachother through the kids, the kids' evil grins, the twisted dreams of Ms. Giddons, I shudder.