Looking at The Innocents for the 1st Time

Directed by Jack Clayton

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I picked this up during the semi-annual Criterion Collection sale at Barnes and Noble. I have heard about this film’s legacy for years and had never seen it. I always like to hear of successful genre films from an older era because I feel viewers nowadays dismiss them unfairly. Here we have a nice and atmospheric gothic horror film that as you watch it is actually quite unsettling. Deborah Kerr plays a woman who becomes the governess for a wealthy man’s niece and nephew. I won’t go too much further into the plot as not to spoil anything but there is something suspicious about these kids. I know it sounds cliche, but the mystery behind this is quite intriguing.

The film opens with the 20th Century Fox logo, but no fanfare. It’s just a stark black and white image with the sound of a little girl singing. Very unnerving. I had previously thought that the opening to Alien 3 was very dark and foreboding but this takes the cake. The film oozes menace throughout which really makes it a horror film and not just some scare machine which one would think having seen its trailer. Honestly it doesn’t help sell the film at all. It makes it look like some 60s B-movie and this is far more than that.

As I watched the film, I took note of the splendid craftsmanship in the cinematography. It really reminded me of the work of Stanley Kubrick. Combine that with the tension that permeates the story which is reminiscent of Alfred Hitchcock, this is probably why I responded so well to the picture.

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A prime example of knowing how to scare people without making them jump. I would recommend The Innocents to anyone who hasn’t seen it or to those who profess to be horror movie buffs. This is a fantastic film, with quality acting and it’s also very well crafted. It’s a shame I did not see this film sooner.

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2 thoughts on “Looking at The Innocents for the 1st Time

  1. Brilliant review, Eric! This is one movie that I probably would never review because I would endlessly gush over it and sicken everyone. (I am a huge fan of The Turn of the Screw). I am so glad you touched upon that opening of the little child singing “O Willow Waly” That is such an effective musical pre-cursor to the whole film. (Miles performing “Lost Lord” is another amazing sequence).

    Nice observation regarding it’s photography. The last film to impress me in the same vein as this movie was “The Others.”
    This movie is an excellent example of what a Gothic thriller should be. Belongs up there with The Changeling, The Uninvited and of course, Wises’ The Haunting, some of which followed Clayton’s template. Awesome job, Eric!

    • Thank you sir! I’m not really a horror buff so for me I have to hear good things about those type of movies in order to give it a try. I was amazed also at how the adult subject matter was handled. And did nobody in the 60s have anything to say about those kisses?

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