The Innocents: A Masterwork of Psychological Horror

  The Innocents   (1961)

The Innocents is a near-faithful adaption of Henry James’s classic Victorian ghost story, The Turn of the Screw.    Intelligently directed by Jack Clayton, the film boasts  exquisite black&white cinematography, a haunting musical score, subtle chills, and sensitive acting.  

 Deborah Kerr stars as the repressed spinster Miss Giddons, who is hired by The Uncle (Michael Redgrave) to care for his young nephew and niece at an isolated country mansion while he remains in London.  Martin Stephens and Pamela Franklin portray the eerily charming children, Miles and Flora, who may, or may not be, possessed by the malevolent spirits of Miss Jessel and Quint.

Darkly lit and filled with fleeting images- memorable scenes include: Flora waltzing in the gazebo as Miss Jessel watches from the middle of the lake where she floats upon lily pads.   The ghost of Quint terrorizing Miss Giddons during a game of hide and seek.  And never was a child more chilling than Miles with  his simple words,  “It was only the wind, my dear.”


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38 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. An excellent movie. The final scene freaked me out more than anything.

  2. Hi Edward,

    Thanks for visiting my blog. It’s nice to meet another fan. Yes- the ending is *really* freaky. Clayton’s directing was superb throughout.

  3. I’m still freaked out by the ending! Nice review.

  4. Thanks, Ink. Glad you liked my review. 🙂

  5. No spoilers on the ending please, I haven’t seen the whole thing yet! I’m on a dial-up connection, it’s torture trying to watch videos online. I’ll have to rent it.

    Thanks for reminding me about this movie, I think we talked about it awhile back and I forgot about it.

  6. Hey DD!

    Mums the word on the ending.

    Yeah, I think I’d brought up the film over at your blog, but can’t remember what had started the conversation.

    btw, if you can switch at any point- DSL is definitely worth it. Youtube has so many great films. I have to remember to take a moment and thank the people who take the time to post them.

  7. I’ve not seen this movie but I’ll put it on my list. I’m finding that I am enjoying watching B&W movies. The things the directors did with light and shadow are amazing.

  8. Hey Jenna!

    I’m a huge old film buff. The lights and shadows of B&W is especially perfect for psychological horror and film noir.

  9. Many of my favorites come from the late fifties to mid-sixties, when the craft of black and white filmmaking reached its peak. Not to discount Val Lewton’s earlier work, of course. Some exceptionally filmed work of the era would include Robert Wise’s “The Haunting”, John Frankenheimer’s “Seconds”, Martin Ritt’s “The Spy Who Came In from the Cold”, and an oddity called “Incubus” by Leslie Stevens (the co-creator of TV’s “The Outer Limits”, itself known for creative B&W photography).

  10. I love these types of movies. I’ll going to watch it now. I’m also going to check out some of Ed’s recommendations.

  11. Hey Edward,

    My favorite film decades are 30s-50s.

    Nice to hear Lewton mentioned. Cat People and Curse of the Cat People are two of my favorite flicks.

    I recently rewatched The Haunting on cable. Great stuff.

  12. Hi Auria,

    I hope you enjoy the film. Curious to hear your opinion afterwards.

    And yes, Edward mentioned some really good ones…

  13. I LOVED “The Haunting”, one of my favs. I still love “The Uninvited” as well, if you haven’t seen that it’s excellent.

    I think I saw the ’82 version of “Cat People”, I barely remember it. I’ll have to find the ’42 version.

  14. Hi gypsy,

    I’ve always loved the movies of the 30’s to 50’s, too. I spent many Sunday nights at a downtown Denver library, during their screenings of classic movies of the era. It was the first time I’d seen “Grand Hotel”, and now it’s in my collection. I prefer “Ninotchka” and much of the Marx brothers to most modern comedies.

    And I second Digital Dame’s recommendation of “The Uninvited.”

  15. Ah, I loved The Turn Of The Screw but did not know there was a movie made. (The news never made it to my rock) .. Fantastic review. Makes me want to drop everything and sit and watch it.

  16. Hi DD,

    I saw “The Uninvited” once on TCM and absolutely loved it. On a sadder note, Gail Russell was pathologically shy and started drinking on the set of that movie to help calm her. Later, alcoholism contributed to her death.

    Eek! The Cat People remake. You really don’t want to remember it…

  17. Edward,

    My favorite Garbo film is “Camille.” I haven’t seen “Grand Hotel” or “Ninotchka” in a long time. Probably time for a rewatching.

    *Love* the Marx Brothers.

  18. Heya Venus,

    When you have time to take a break, shut off your lights, curl up on the sofa, and enjoy the flick. 🙂

  19. Quite creepy–running to hide under covers now!

  20. Colby,

    If you ever saw Ju-On, you would know that you are not always safe under the covers… 😉

  21. Hey Gypsy,

    I actually did my Master’s thesis on Henry James, and most of my Ph.D. work–Turn of the Screw is one of my all-time favorites. I’ve always wanted to see the Innocents. Have you ever checked out The Others, with Nicole Kidman? It plays off a similar theme and is pretty creepy!

  22. Another classic film fan! I don’t think I’ve seen The Innocents, but Deborah Kerr is one of my favorite actresses. TCM had a very early Kerr film on the other night — Vacation from Marriage, set during WWII and more of a drama than the title makes it sound. Very good (and on I think around 2 a.m….eek)

  23. Hey jglane!

    I love talking to other classic film fans. Cool! I’ve seen tons of Kerr’s films, but that one doesn’t ring a bell. I’ll keep an eye out for it.

    TCM. (sobs) After awhile being here in Germany, I was so excited to learn my cable co. was getting my favorite channel. And in English language! Until I saw it was not the same at all as the *real* TCM. They show more modern films than old classics. Total disappointment.

  24. Heya Nancy!

    I love the “Others”. One of my fave films of recent times. And, I actually did not guess the twist. (I’d figured the twist of “The Sixth Sense” as soon as I saw the first commercial ad for it). But both those films are fantastic with or without their twist ending. They don’t rely on them.

    As for James- I purchased a book that has 4 of his novellas in it. Thus far, I’ve read “Screw” and “Aspern Papers”. James and I have a difficult relationship right now. Sometimes I want to strangle him…and other times, I think, “man, he was a genius.” I find him difficult but worth the effort.

  25. “The Others” was great. And like you Astro Sis, I did not clue in to the twist at all. Total surprise to me, but way more fun that way!

  26. Hey Gypsy,

    Yeah, I understand the twisted relationship with James. You should try reading “The Friend of the Friends,” and “The Jolly Corner” if you like his ghost stories. Also, “Beast in the Jungle.”

    Have you ever tried Edith Wharton’s “The Eyes”–ghastly!

  27. Ooh, Nancy, you just named two of my all-time favorite stories (“Jolly Corner” and “The Eyes”)! I second that recommendation.

  28. I don’t remember hearing about this movie…I don’t get to watch as many of the old classics as I’d like, although I love watching the old silents when I can catch them on late-night TV!

  29. Hmmm. I’ve never seen this one. I’ll have to dig it up this weekend, maybe. I loved reading The Turn of the Screw.

  30. I watched the start of the video this morning but had to get ready for work, so I’ll try to catch more of it this weekend.

    On a completely unrelated note, I love the clothes women wore in Victorian times.

  31. Hey Nancy,

    The book I have also contains “Beast in the Jungle” and “The Jolly Corner”. I’m going to tackle them soon.

    I read something by Wharton but can’t remember which one…

  32. Hi Ink,

    Will put “Eyes” on my reading list.

  33. Hi Dominique,

    A really interesting silent is The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari.

  34. Hey Amy,

    If you liked the book, you’d probably enjoy the film. It’s very faithful to the storyline and tone.

  35. hey Marian,

    I love the *look* of their clothes. But damn! Talk about uncomfortable. However, I could definitely go for the Aesthetic Dress.

  36. Jglane,

    I watched “Vacation From Marriage” last night and absolutely loved it! 🙂

  37. I’ve never seen this movie, I’ll have to check it out. I just watched The Birds recently, that’s another good classic movie of true terror. These days director’s are too reliant on blood and gore, but real horror is shown and felt from inside.

    ps. I now have your blog on my “follow” list.

  38. Hey Steve,

    I haven’t seen The Birds in years, but did enjoy it.

    Never liked slasher films. I *did* love Nightmare on Elm Street 1 and 3. (2nd should just be forgotten) It had a very interesting concept. They should have ended the series with the third movie when they buried Freddy in the hallow grounds.

    Scream was very well-done and witty. But if I’d been the director, the blood would have been off-screen.

    Thanks for adding me to your list- you’re on my blogroll. 🙂

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