Saturday, October 19, 2013
The Innocents (1961)
I remember seeing parts of this film on television when I was five or six years old. Scared the bejeebus out of me. Don't know that I ever watched it all the way through until today. Have to say, it has considerable power still. It's considered one of the first psychological horror films and the production, particularly the directing is very impressive.
Based on Henry James' story THE TURN OF THE SCREW, The Innocents is taken from the stage play version. Deborah Kerr plays a governess given charge over two young children, a boy and a girl, at a large country estate. At first everything seems fine but then Kerr begins to learn about the fate of the previous governess. She had been having an open and somewhat kinky affair with another estate employee. The man was killed in what was probably an accident, and the woman fell into a deep depression and finally drowned herself in a lake.
After witnessing some strange events, Kerr begins to suspect that the ghosts of the two lovers have possessed the children. Her attempts to 'save' the kids don't go very well and her own mental state begins to deteriorate.
Just as in James' original story, the viewer isn't sure if there really are ghosts or if the governess is imagining all the spooky stuff. You can draw your own conclusions about whether this is a ghost story or a story of a woman going mad or both. In any case, this is a very well done horror tale with some truly frightening moments. The atmosphere is seriously Gothic and Deborah Kerr's performance carries the film. All and all, a very satisfying entry into my Halloween movie watching.