The Innocents Blu-ray
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Directed by Jack Clayton
Produced in 1961
Main Language - English
Countries & Regions - British Film
A brilliant adaptation of Henry James' classic novella ‘The Turn Of The Screw’, The Innocents is one of the best ghost stories ever filmed. Beginning with the sinister sound of a child singing, followed by the apparently deranged whisperings of an anxious woman, the film unsettles the viewer from the very start, and increases the unease until the terrifying end.
A governess (Deborah Kerr, in her finest hour) is employed to look after two orphaned children by their uncle (Michael Redgrave), on the condition she never bothers him regarding their welfare. She travels to the family's beautiful country mansion and immediately bonds with the children, but things soon turn ominous when the apparently angelic boy is inexplicably expelled, and she begins to suspect that the children may be possessed by two former, deceased employees.
The film's restrained depiction of the action works terrifically well, and even the apparently tranquil scenes flow with foreboding; the schmaltzy banter with the children when the governess first arrives at the house is creepy in itself, as they praise her beauty and she immediately succumbs to the hollow flattery. Her personal mantra ‘but above anything else, I love the children’ rings like a fraught rant rather than an affirmation of affection, and the film subtly hints that the scares may be the fevered imaginings of a disturbed woman. Kerr is perfectly cast as the repressed governess struggling to keep hysteria at bay, and her gradual descent into panic is harrowing to behold.
These creepy scenes are nothing compared to the film's chilling set pieces - the scene where Kerr hides behind the curtain when playing with the children will haunt many nightmares, as will the unleashed terror of the final few scenes. The use of sound adds immeasurably to the tension - seemingly innocuous noises (birdsong, a buzzing fly, the children's giggles) take on a menacing edge, and one sequence, in which murmuring voices crescendo into a terrifying blare as the governess spins around in desperation, is masterly. Freddie Francis' superb black and white cinematography adds immeasurably to the atmosphere, with even the scenes in broad daylight evoking uncertainty.
Alex Davidson on 6th November 2006
Author of 231 reviews
Widely considered to be one of the greatest of all ghost stories on film, The Innocents, Jack Clayton's celebrated screen adaptation of Henry James' The Turn of the Screw is a brilliant exercise in psychological horror which retains the ambiguity of the original story.
In the performance of her career, Deborah Kerr plays Miss Giddens, an emotionally repressed vicar’s daughter, who becomes the guardian of two, apparently angelic, orphans at a secluded stately home. When the apparitions of a late governess and her sadistic lover manifest themselves to Miss Giddens, she determines to save her young charges from their ghostly evil. But just who is corrupting whom?
The Innocents’ sinister atmosphere is carefully created through its cinematography, soundtrack, and decor: Freddie Francis’s beautiful CinemaScope photography, with its eerily indistinct long shots and mysterious manifestations at the edges of the frame; an evocative and spooky soundtrack; and the grand yet decaying Bly House.
Length: 100 mins
Aspect ratio: 2.35:1 CinemaScope
Cat No: BFIB1032
Format: Blu-ray B&W
- Full-feature commentary by Professor Christopher Frayling
- Filmed introduction (Caroline Millar, 2006, 26 mins): Christopher Frayling, on location at Sheffield Park House – where The Innocents was shot – on the making of the film
- The Bespoke Overcoat (Jack Clayton, 1955, 37 mins): Jack Clayton’s award-winning short, adapted from Gogol’s The Overcoat, follows a haunted tailor as he comes to terms with a friend’s death
- Naples is a Battlefield (Jack Clayton, 1944, 14 mins): Clayton’s rare (un-credited) directorial debut is a documentary account of the wartime destruction and reconstruction of Naples. Made for the RAF film unit
- Original US Trailer
- Designed by Motley (2010, 14 mins): Gallery of costume designs for The Innocents by prolific British designers Motley. With introduction and audio captions
- Illustrated booklet with sleevenote essay by the League of Gentleman’s Jeremy Dyson, an on-set report, director biography and more.
by DavidLeanFan on 15th June 2009
A spine tingling, sepulchral horror. Jack Clayton's adaptation if the Henry James' novel, The Turn Of The Screw will not cease to shock and surprise the viewer. As a n... Read on
A spine tingling, sepulchral horror. Jack Clayton's adaptation if the Henry James' novel, The Turn Of The Screw will not cease to shock and surprise the viewer. As a nervous governess, played by Deborah Kerr, is given charge of two seemingly perfect children, she becomes increasingly convinced that they are possessed by the ghosts of their previous governesses. She also becomes aware that the old, dark house in which she is forced to live, is alive with disturbing secrets and ghosts from the past. The repressed horror and devilish qualities of the children are only realised by the governess, she realises that she must confront the sleeping terror in order to free the children, and her attempts to rekindle the childlike qualities which they have sadly lost, go frustratingly awry, and result in one of the most heartstopping conclusions in film history. Hide
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