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The Innocents
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on July 9, 2001
This movie is what a ghost story should be. It's up there with the original "The Haunting." (And like that movie, is based on a great story.) But as another reviewer asked - where's the DVD? The widescreen? Great movies should be treated with more respect. Especially when you see some of the junk that gets the full DVD treatment.
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on December 17, 2015
One of the best 'horror' movies, not that there's much competition. Worth a blind buy if you haven't seen it yet but like creepy movies. And the transfer, wow, Criterion did a top job. One of the best transfers I've seen yet on Blu and the movie is over 50 years old.
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on July 25, 2013
This adaptation of Henry James's "Turning of the Screw" never fails to scare my socks off. I have many favourite moments in this film, but I'm not going to tell you about them. You'll just have to watch it for yourself. If you're brave enough.
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on January 20, 2017
Creepy in a good way!
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on April 16, 2017
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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!
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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.
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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.
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on February 25, 2001
Jack Clayton's superb film version of Henry James's novella THE TURN OF THE SCREW is unquestionably the most faithful rendition of James ever brought to the screen: the film retains not only all the famous ambiguity of the novella but also all the beauty as well as all the suspense and horror. Deborah Kerr gives the performance of her life (with the exception only, perhaps, of Sister Clodagh in BLACK NARCISSUS) as the beautiful and hysterical governess brought to a gigantic mansion to care for two odd children, who may or may not be communing with the ghosts of Kerr's predecessor and the manor's manservant. The uncertainty as to whether the ghosts are real--or products of the governess's repressed fears and insecurities--is the famous crux of the James novella, and beautifully translated into the film. There are teasing moments of narrative uncertainty, such as the classic sequence in the schoolroom, that capture all the mystery of the original source, and the great sequence with Kerr trying to restrain a hysterical Flora from joining what looks to be the ghost of Miss Jessel out by the manor's lake in the pouring rain is authentically creepy.
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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!
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