"The Innocents" (Jack Clayton, 1961) is based on Henry James' classic story "The Turn of the Screw" co-scripted for the screen by none other than Truman Capote. Both deal with the attempts of a nanny to break her two young charges of the psession imposed on them by their former nanny and the old gardener---both of whom died under mysterious circumstances. The beauty of the story is that it is never stated outright--the posession may just be a figmentof the nanny's sexually repressed imagination. And Deborah Kerr's sometimes feverish performance adds support to this argument. Add to the other side of the argument the eerily mature peformances by Martin Stephens and Pamela Franklin as the children. Ms. Franklin grew up to give equally mature and accomplished roles later in her career--her performance in "The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie" rivalled the Oscar-winning one by Maggie Smith.
A great deal of the credit of "The Innocents" goes to director Jack Clayton who creates such a bloody eerie mood, in much the same way as Robert Wise did in "The Haunting." Clayton also, I think, has a bird fetish. We were treated to a lot of cruddy birds in Clayton's over-produced, over-publicized, under-acted version of "The Great Gatsby." But he does something neat here, there appear to birds all over the place--during the day, (and) at night, even.But you don't see them too often. They are merely a presence, like the two aberrations of the household. The horror is done so well, so subtley in "The Innocents," as opposed to the atrociousness of "The Exorcist." Who would have thought that the sight of a woman dressed in black, sitting among the reeds in the distant haze could throw such cold at your back and make the roots of your hair tingle? That's the beauty of "The Innocents," it does so much with so little, but when it pulls the stops out, the effect is damn near devastating.
Broadcast on KCMU-FM on January 21, 1977
Nothing to add, really. I wrote another review of "The Innocents" recently and it's remarkably the same.
Tomorrow (668-Neighbor of "The Beast"): "The Exorcist," in all its atrociousness.