A young governess for two children becomes convinced that the house and grounds are haunted.
- Miss Giddens: Deborah Kerr
- Peter Quint: Peter Wyngarde
- Mrs. Grose: Megs Jenkins
- The Uncle: Michael Redgrave
- Miles: Martin Stephens
- Flora: Pamela Franklin
- Miss Jessel: Clytie Jessop
- Anna: Isla Cameron
- Coachman (uncredited): Eric Woodburn
- Screenplay: Truman Capote
- Music: Georges Auric
- Director of Photography: Freddie Francis
- Art Direction: Wilfred Shingleton
- Editor: Jim Clark
- Camera Operator: Ronnie Taylor
- Sound Recordist: John Cox
- Sound Recordist: Buster Ambler
- Producer: Jack Clayton
- Costume Design: Sophie Devine
- ADR & Dubbing: Peter Musgrave
- Novel: Henry James
- Additional Writing: John Mortimer
- Executive Producer: Albert Fennell
- Screenplay: William Archibald
- Makeup Artist: Harold Fletcher
- Hairstylist: Gordon Bond
- Sound Effects: Daphne Oram
- Script Editor: Jeanie Sims
- Boom Operator: Ken Ritchie
- John Chard: The Innocents (1961)
Oh willow I die, oh willow I die…
Based on Henry James’ novel, The Turn Of The Screw, The Innocents is a thoroughly absorbing chiller that pot boils with almost unbearably knowing glee as to what it’s doing to the viewer. Deborah Kerr stars as Miss Giddens, the lady hired by Michael Redgrave to act as governess to his young niece and nephew. We find ourselves in Victorian England, out on some country estate at Bly Mansion, where the children are angelic and enchanting in equal measure. Yet there’s an eeriness hanging over this place and it starts to seemingly play tricks on Miss Giddens’ mind, she thinks she sees and hears things. It’s only when she talks to housekeeper Mrs Grose (Megs Jenkins), that she starts to piece things together, but worryingly it’s the children that appear to be at the root of the problems. Aren’t they?
Kerr is fabulous here, carrying an elegant gait around with her, she does a fine line in borderline hysteria caused by something unknown bubbling away under the surface. Filmed on location at Sheffield Park and Gardens, and the Bluebell Railway in East Sussex, this lovely Gothic chiller does justice to its literate source. Being co-scripted by Truman Capote, William Archibald and John Mortimer, that’s really not much of a surprise in truth though is it?! Choosing to play on the viewers imagination more than pandering to shocks, director Jack Clayton superbly creates a sort of itchy like sense of dread. He’s fully aware that here in and around the Gothic abode, it’s more often than not what you don’t see – or think you see – that is more frightening.
Ace cinematographer Freddie Francis does a marvellous job with the photography, with deep focus and shadows the order of the day, and with Clayton sharp cutting and dallying with angles; and Georges Auric’s sinister music floating around the estate like some spectral peeping tom, the atmosphere created is akin to claustrophobic foreboding. In many ways it’s actually an uncomfortable watch, but for all the right reasons, the themes that rumble away are grim in texture, the question of malevolent evil or otherwise is a constant, and fittingly the finale offers up a shocking denouement that is nigh on impossible to shake off. With great performances from the child actors (Pamela Franklin/Martin Stephens) sealing the deal, The Innocents is one of the smartest and most effective chillers to ever have come out of Britain. 9/10
- Wuchak: _**Low-key Gothic horror with Deborah Kerr**_
A new governess (Deborah Kerr) takes over as nanny of two orphaned siblings at a remote English manor at the turn of the century, but there’s a secretive past to the situation and seemingly ghostly happenings. Pamela Franklin plays the girl.
“The Innocents” (1961) is a cinematic version of Henry James 1898 novella “The Turn of the Screw,” shot in B&W. It’s technically well-made and has Gothic mood, but the story is intrinsically one-dimensional, resting on the shoulders of Kerr and essentially only involving three other actors.
Like the original tale, there’s ambiguity: Is the governess hallucinating or is she really seeing what she claims? One thing that lends credence to the latter view is the fact that she is able to describe one of the persons she sees before even knowing he existed.
If you like this movie, check out the unofficial prequel with Marlon Brando and Stephanie Beacham, “The Nightcomers” (1971). While it lacks the ghostly elements, it imaginatively sets the stage for this movie (and James’ original story) in an edgy way à la “Last Summer” (1969) and “The Sailor who Fell from Grace with the Sea” (1976).
The film runs 1 hour, 40 minutes, and was shot at Sheffield Park Garden, Dane Mill, Uckfield, East Sussex, England, and Shepperton Studios southwest of London, plus points nearby.