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Deborah Kerr stars in this "horrifying Gothic ghost tale" (Newsweek) based on Henry James' "The Turn Of The Screw,' a powerful psychological drama about innocence possessed by evil. Shortly after coming to live with orphans Flora and Miles in their dark, eerie mansion, the new governess (Kerr) mistakes their strange behavior for preciousness. But she soon comes to believe that the charming, beautiful children are possessed by evil, malicious spirits - the souls of their previous governess and estate manager who are now dead. With its shocking conclusion and sinister cinematic effects. The Innocents "catches an eerie, spine-chilling mood right from the start" (Variety) that never lets up.
- Includes widescreen anamorphic and full-screen versions
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But in 1961, when this was made, storytelling still took a front seat in motion picture production. The whole point of a movie is to tell a story, not dazzle you with plotless, computer generated B-roll footage.
Marvelous sets, costumes and fine manners make this film a veritable recruitment tool for the 19th century, which appears indescribably beautiful. The performances are excellent and one can't help but think you'd never find a child actor today who could handle the dialogue as well as young Martin Stephens does here. In 1961, children were far better educated (especially in upper class England) than they are today; so finding an actor who could present adult dialogue with such subtlety and sophistication wasn't the problem it would be in 2014.
The only point on which I disagree with this film's producers is the use of birdsong in the opening and closing scenes, as well as in a few other places. It seems far too cheery and somewhat out of place, especially when used at night. Were I the film's director, I would have ordered the sound of wind blowing through the branches instead.
Nevertheless, this is a wonderful film, not to be missed.
Director Jack Clayton was at the peak of his powers and this was the second of three excellent films he made between 1959-1964; the others being the Academy Award winning "Room at the Top" and "The Pumpkin Eater". A huge factor in the success of this film was its "look" mainly achieved by the stunning black and white cinematography of Freddie Francis. Francis had just come off winning the first of his two Oscars: "Sons and Lovers" (1960).
As to be expected, the Criterion Collection edition is exemplary with lots of first rate extras. The highlight is an excellent and very informative introduction to the film by Christopher Frayling who also provides the audio commentary. I don't always take a great deal of notice to film intro's but I suggest you watch Frayling's as he provides a remarkable and invaluable insight into the history of this film.