Tom Humberstone


horror month - day 9

The Innocents (1961)

Quick summary: A newly hired governess is sent to look after two children who aren't as angelic as they first appear.

Based on a Henry James novel - The Turn of the Screw - with a screenplay by Truman Capote (and structural advice from Harold Pinter), cinematography by Freddie Francis, and directed by Jack Clayton - this film has great pedigree. Apparently Francis Truffaut, sitting in the same restaurant as Clayton, passed him a note saying The Innocents was the best British film since Hitchcock left for America. I can see why. It's one of the most sophisticated haunted house films I've seen and I'm already looking forward to re-watching it.

Capote wrote the screenplay while he was writing In Cold Blood and, as far as I can work out, brought a lot of the freudian sexual repression/fantasy overtones and Southern Gothic visual flourishes to the script. I love how successfully ambiguous the film is, and the elliptical structure, and the lighting, and the set design... But I don't think I'm going to add much more that hasn't already been said elsewhere. I've been trying to dig out Pauline Kael's piece about the film but it doesn't appear to be archived on the internet anywhere - instead, here's a good piece about it from the LRB.

I just noticed that it will be showing at the Greenwich Picturehouse on Monday at 1pm - if you can, I'd really recommend catching it and seeing it on the big screen.

Oh, and great use of that creepy Oh Willy Waly tune over the 20th Century Fox ident - I wonder if this is the first film that abandons the traditional Fox fanfare?

Tonight: This has got me in the mood to watch The Village of the Damned. More creepy kids. I really like The Midwich Cuckoos - the Wyndham book it's based on - but have never seen the adaptation.