Written by: John White on February 1st, 2006
Theatrical Release Date: United Kingdom, 1961
Director: Jack Clayton
Cast: Deborah Kerr, Michael Redgrave, Peter Wyngarde, Megs Jenkins, Pamela Franklin, Martin Stephens
DVD released: September 6, 2005
Approximate running time: 100 minutes
Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
Rating: Not rated
Sound: Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo
DVD Release: 20th Century Fox
Region Coding: Region 1 NTSC
Retail Price: $14.99
Miss Giddens gets her first job as a Governess for two orphans whose uncle has no time for them and little interest either. When Miss Giddens first visits the country estate they live on she is enchanted by first the setting and then Flora. Flora is convinced her brother Miles is returning and sure enough a letter turns up telling all that Miles has been expelled from school. When Miles arrives the atmosphere in the house changes and it becomes clear to their governess that past events have hurt the children terribly. she learns of the previous governess who committed suicide and of Quint, her lover, who died as well but not before a torrid and unsettling affair. The governess is convinced she must break the spell of Quint on the children but starts to suspect a supernatural presence. Is Quint a ghost or is she scared that she is losing her mind?
The Innocents is an adaptation of Henry James’ “The Turn Of The Screw” and befitting such a literary source this film has exceptional art design and costumes. The film is based around a central performance from Deborah Kerr as the governess who is either facing off evil possession or going mad and taking the children with her. Kerr is the greatest of British screen actresses and she can certainly hold the core of a film like this both as an actress and as a beauty. the film also boasts cinematography courtesy of the great Freddie Francis and a screenplay co-written by Truman Capote. Clayton chooses to play down the sexual angle of the story and the sense of the governess’ sexual repression is never explored.
As a psychological horror movie this film has few equals and it is easy to see why comparison were made with Amenabar’s The Others of a few years back. Both films are set in England and deal with possible ghosts, madness and children. Again both films rely on scares from darkness and suggestion and on a central performance from a great actress. The Innocents though has lasted over 40 years with an excellent reputation and still is highly effective today. There are three setpieces which make you jump out your seat and a conclusion which is as sad as it is creepy.
Kerr is excellent, if a little old for her part, and the setting of the scenes by the director and the composition from Freddie Francis are first rate. The screenplay allows the children enough precocious dialogue to suggest they are more than mere kids and the children never become cute or cloying in their roles. Where some of the effectiveness is diluted in this film is the way the film prepares you for Kerr’s change from poorly boundaried governess to a zealot convinced of the children’s evil. This is done too quickly and other characters acceptance of Kerr’s beliefs too convenient to work perfectly.
The Innocents deserves it’s reputation as a fine horror film, however better preparation of character in the film would have led it to achieve even greater heights.
The Twentieth Century Fox disc is very good in terms of the main feature. The film is presented on a two sided disc with Full Frame and Anamorphic widescreen options. The transfer is excellent and the print shows very little wear and tear.
The sound is stereo and a little quiet for these ears with some distortion in music and loud speech.
The disc has three trailers for other Fox releases including the Legend of hell House and little else as extras.
This is a very worthwhile purchase at a great price with little competition in terms of DVD releases. Great repressed uptight British horror.