Saturday, April 27, 2019

As the screw turns

For those of you who have FXM, they will be showing The Innocents tomorrow, at 3:00 AM and again at 10:15 AM.

Deborah Kerr plays Miss Giddens, who at the beginning of the movie is meeting with her new boss, the uncle (Michael Redgrave, whose character is only referred to as "The Uncle") of two siblings to whom she is going to be governess. Uncle is a bachelor who prefers an active life and doesn't want kids impinging on it. Their parents died, and they're living off the inheritance in an estate out in the country. Or, at least, Flora (Pamela Franklin) is; her older brother Miles (Martin Stephens) is currently off at boarding school.

Miss Giddens gets to the estate where she thinks she hears a voice that must be Flora, but Flora insists it isn't her. Giddens also meets the cook, Miss Grose (Megs Jenkins), who seems to know that this place had a bit of a dark history, although she doesn't want to let on what that dark history is. Eventually we learn that a former governess, Miss Jessel, and another servant, Quint, were in love with each other and died, and it might just be the case that their ghosts haunt the place, if you really believe in ghosts.

Flora, like all children, can be a bit mischievous and willful at times, and she too seems to have a bit of the dark history as she just knows Miles is going to be coming home soon even though he's off at boarding school. Sure enough, word arrives that Miles is being expelled from the school because he's a bad influence on the other boys. And boy does he seem to be bad when he gets back, in a Bad Seed male equivalent sort of way. Miles lies through his teeth but also acts at times like a perfectly innocent gentleman.

Giddens continues to investigate, and eventually reaches a disturbing conclusion: Quint and Jessel are still around in spirit form, showing up to possess the bodies of Miles and Flora respectively! This would certainly explain their naughty, overly grown-up behavior. But such behavior also seems to be a threat to the people around them, and Giddens decides that she's goin gto have to expel the trespassing souls from her young charges, in a manner of speaking. Of course, to do so may just drive the little brats insane, especially if they're not actually possessed by anything....

The Innocents is based on the novella The Turn of the Screw by Henry James. I haven't read the original but do recall seeing one other TV adaptation of it back when I was in high school. (I think it was this 1974 version which is technically American although I always thought it was British thanks to the cast featuring Lynn Redgrave.) The story is a good one if you like that sort of story, which I have to admit isn't necessarily my first choice. Kerr does well in her role, and the photography is excellent, as should be expected considering the movie was directed by former cinematographer Jack Clayton. To me, the movie seems a bit ambiguous on whether the kids were really possessed or whether Giddens was just going insane, but that works for the movie.

The Innocents got a Criterion Collection DVD release some years back, but that seems to be out of print, so you're either going to have to pay through the nose or watch on FXM.

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