The Innocents (1961)


*. Martin Scorsese included this title among his “eleven scariest horror movies of all time.” That’s a judgement I agree with, and, if informal discussions among fellow film fans are any indication, it’s one a lot of other people would agree with too. This movie is frightening. The shot of Miss Jessel across the lake is one of the two or three scariest moments I’ve ever experienced in a film.


*. Freddie Francis gets a lot of credit for his direction, but it seems to me that he’s hamstrung by having to shoot in CinemaScope. He was keen on doing a lot of deep focus shots and CinemaScope isn’t kind to deep focus. The movie often feels like it’s going after depth of field but is being flattened and stretched in other directions. The results are not always optimal, akin to watching the film getting tugged like a piece of toffee. If you do watch it, make sure you do so in widescreen, as the reformatted version is awful.
*. It’s based on The Turn of the Screw, or, more exactly, on a play that was based on The Turn of the Screw, and I find it pretty faithful to James. The sexual innuendo was there in the original, and I think the script keeps more than enough ambiguity. Even the risky kisses on the mouth (two of them between the Governess and Miles) only suggest sexuality.
*. Deborah Kerr, I think, overplays the neurotic governess. She’s clearly dotty right from the first scene. But, in a way that is oddly effective, she seems to get saner as time goes by.
*. I wonder what year it’s supposed to be. Probably the same as James’s story, but something about Miles’s overachieving coiffure seems decadent in a swinging ’60s sort of way.


4 thoughts on “The Innocents (1961)

  1. Morgan Butler

    Even today, the scenes where he essentially ‘grudge-fucks’ Miss Taro before having her carted off for an interrogation and then waits to punch Prof. Dent’s ticket are still pretty stark and icy. Icier than Bond is portrayed in the books. That kind of scene is more in the style of Matt Helm as he is portrayed in the Donald Hamilton books.


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