If I missed any, let me know. When you get lost in such a wonderful discussion, it's easy to miss…
Two Children. Two Adults. One Unspeakable Crime.
Prequel to the Henry James classic "Turn of the Screw" about the events leading up to the deaths of Peter Quint and Ms. Jessel, and the the slow corruption of the children in their care.
The zoom lens sure fascinated filmmakers in the late 60s/early 70s, didn't it? Oh boy, Michael Winner sure did suffer from a surfeit of superficially bright ideas, didn't he? Marlon Brando could be really interesting even in a dodgy, badly misconceived role, couldn't he? The writers didn’t really “get” Henry James, did they? Stephanie Beacham was rather fetching, wasn’t she? At least it looks damn good, don't it? Some of these scenes with the kids are rather uncomfortable to watch, aren’t they? And it's nice that it’s bad-interesting rather than bad-boring, ain't it?
This review reportedly contains spoilers. I can handle the truth.
"The Innocents" is better!...
"Marlon Brando and Thora Hird were rather good in this very odd film, a prequel to 'The Innocents', but pretty much everything else about it wasn't. The children's acting was wooden, and the scenes in which they copied the unconvincing lovers (Brando and Beacham) were distasteful. The script needed a rewrite, and Michael Winner should have shown more of the way in which Brando's character had such a deep grotesque psychological effect upon the children, which led to tragic results (which were actually rather funny as shot in this film). "
By the early 1970s, director Michael Winner was beginning to develop a reputation for bad taste sensationalism. Over the course of the decade he would alienate himself from those who admired his early comedies. The turning point in this descent was Winner’s ambitious film of The Nightcomers. The original novel was a curiosity, a prequel to Henry James’ much celebrated story The Turn of the Screw (which had been filmed by Jack Clayton as the classic The Innocents). Speculating on the events that led up to the commencement of the James text, the script adaptation offered to Winner a unique opportunity to explore the ambiguous nature of sexual socialization. At the time, star Marlon Brando was recovering from a run…
As with many Winner films it is necessary to not make the mistake of expecting his film to be exactly as you expect, or very much like it at all actually. Forget Henry James, forget The Innocents and just enjoy Mr Winner’s take on how the children lost their innocence. The SM and bondage scenes were more explicit than I remember on a previous viewing and it may be that the earlier video had been trimmed. Certainly here there is no mistaking the powerful relationship between Brando and Beacham and I for one found the playing out of these scenes by the children fairly powerful. I suppose the pace is a little slow which is perhaps particularly noticeable because of how quickly does the effective ending unfold. Not for purists but if you are looking for that something just a little bit different……
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