Movie Review By Monica Sullivan
"The Innocents" lingers in your mind long after you see it. We are used to being on Deborah Kerr's side whenever she's cast in a film, but HERE, well, she's high-strung and obsessive as Miss Giddens, the new governess. Is it because her little charges Miles and Flora are playing with lascivious ghosts or is it because she's in love with their Uncle (Sir Michael Redgrave) and hasn't had much of an outlet in her sheltered life for lascivious fantasies of any description? Why was little Miles expelled from school? Why does she kiss little Miles on the mouth like a lover? (Or is HE kissing HER on the mouth like a lover?) Why does little Miles talk like the ghost of a man named Ouint? (Peter Wyngarde) Why does Miss Gidden see the ghost of Miss Jessel (Clytie Jessop) at the lake? Why doesn't the housekeeper Mrs. Grose (Megs Jenkins) know ANYTHING?
The children get weirder and weirder and Miss Gidden gets more and more paranoid about the ghosts and although we SEE ghosts, we see them through the increasingly unreliable eyes of the governess. And as for the precocious behavior of the children, isn't it a childhood obligation to drive ANY new authority figure out of her mind? Director Jack Clayton meticulously recreates the Victorian world & his superb cameraman Freddie Francis employs filmmaking techniques popularised during the silent era, e.g: extended dissolves. The unusual look of the film unsettles us as viewers and we go back and forth between our sympathy for Miss Giddens and our increasing fears that she's doing more harm to her charges than ANY ghost ever could. Compounding the conflict is the fact that Martin Stephens (Miles) had already played the devil child of George Sanders and Barbara Shelley in Wolf Rilla's "Village of the Damned" the previous year. Plus!: Newcomer Pamela Franklin (Flora) had the spookiest look in her wide eyes. Those eyes would help to make her a horror film staple for the next fifteen years. "The Innocents" has great repeat value. Depending on your mood, it becomes an entirely different story each time you see it. (Megs Jenkins played Mrs. Grose again in a 1974 color telefeature starring Lynn Redgrave.)
© 2001 - Monica Sullivan - Air Date: 7/18/01
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