The Innocents – UK, 1961 – overview and reviews

  
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The Innocents is a 1961 British supernatural gothic horror feature film based on the novella The Turn of the Screw by Henry James. The title of the film was taken from William Archibald’s stage adaptation of James’ novella.

Directed and produced by Jack Clayton (Something Wicked This Way Comes), the movie stars Deborah Kerr, Michael Redgrave, Megs Jenkins Pamela Franklin and Martin Stephens.

Falling within the sub-genre of psychological horror, the film achieves its effects through lighting, music and direction rather than conventional shocks. Its atmosphere was created by cinematographer Freddie Francis, who employed deep focus in many scenes, as well as bold, minimal lighting. It was partly shot on location at the Gothic mansion of Sheffield Park in Sussex.

In 1971, Michael Winner directed The Nightcomers, a bizarre kinky prequel to The Innocents that starred Marlon Brando and Stephanie Beacham.

Plot:

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 Heathcliffe-like lover Quint (Peter Wyngarde), who both met with mysterious deaths…

  • Introduction and commentary with Professor Christopher Frayling
  • Original trailer for The Innocents
  • Naples is a Battle Field (Jack Clayton, 1944, 13mins) Rare and previously unseen RAF film
  • The Bespoke Overcoat (Jack Clayton, 1955, 33 mins) – Jack Clayton’s first film as director – an Oscar and BAFTA award-winning short starring Alfie Bass and David Kossoff
  • Stills gallery including original costume designs, publicity posters, press books and production pictures
  • Extensive illustrated booklet including film notes by Jeremy Dyson (The League of Gentlemen)

Reviews [click links to read more]:

“The tremendous richness of the production and its treatment of one of the most highly effective and unsettling ghost stories ever written combine here to startling effect, creating in The Innocents an enduring classic.” Noel Megahey, Digital Fix

“Some viewers may find it frustrating, however the ambiguity of The Innocents is where its power lays; its ability to get under the skin and remain there for a long time afterwards marks it as one of the most cerebral and chilling ghost stories ever adapted for film.” James Gracey, Behind the Couch

“Director Clayton also taps into the Gothic sensibilities of the screenplay by Truman Capote, imbuing it with a dreamlike quality in his use of dissolves, the layering up images for Giddens’ bedtime nightmares, and the symbolic images of flowers, statuary and water.” Frank Collins, Cathode Ray Tube

“Consciously attempting to place his film apart from the operatic antics of Hammer, director Jack Clayton created a masterwork of restraint, from Deborah Kerr’s lip-biting lead performance to the film’s groundbreaking but subtly employed electronic score.” Tom Huddleston, Time Out

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