Friday, December 20, 2013

The Innocents

The InnocentsThere 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!

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.

Buy The Innocents Now

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.

Read Best Reviews of The Innocents Here

The many many people who have written about the lack of release of this movie on DVD may be interested to know it is being released in Australia in three weeks on DVD. In Australia we have the distinct advantage of being able to view all regions on our multi zone DVDs (about nienty percent of all DVD players on the market are multi zone) I am not sure if this is the case in America-where DVD players will play all regions. Check and see if your player does this, as it will mean the many people waiting to see this magnificent ghost story on DVD will be easily able to access it. Occasionally Australia gets movies on DVD first (Hello Dolly and All That Jazz were available a full two years before the US release). It will be interesting to see if the movie is adapted well, I can see no reason why it isnt. Unless a cheap company puts out a full screen pan and scan version ("Maurice' was released like this in Oz)--

I will report once the movie is released. It seems inconceivable that a movie of this worth has taken so long to reach DVD..

Want The Innocents Discount?

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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