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The Innocents


NipkowDisc
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watched it tonite with a sinus headache. the big pay-off? peter wyngarde laughing at deborah kerr through window panes. scary? :huh: also included, ghostess miss jessel standing in some tall marsh grass. :) well, if nothing else at least I learned where that sound effect heard in so many episodes of Space:1999 came from. :lol:

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watched it tonite with a sinus headache. the big pay-off? peter wyngarde laughing at deborah kerr through window panes. scary? :huh: also included, ghostess miss jessel standing in some tall marsh grass. :) well, if nothing else at least I learned where that sound effect heard in so many episodes of Space:1999 came from. :lol:

 

"Scary?" Extremely so.. As is the scene in the grasses you refer to, with Deborah Kerr looking in horror at the ghost, who remains absolutely still throughout. This, to me, is the most frightening aspect of that scene. The ghost doesn't move. Even when Kerr looks away and then looks back, the ghost is still there. The very stillness of the scene is what makes it so eerie.

 

"Ghostess"? Never heard that term before. I don't believe it's necessary to feminize the word "ghost".

 

The Innocents is one of the scariest movies I've ever seen, on a level with The Haunting. Both films use what you don't see, what you supply in your own imagination, rather than explicit and obvious effects.

But then, a lot of people who like so-called scary movies like the obvious. Subtlety is wasted on them.

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Both films use what you don't see, what you supply in your own imagination, rather than explicit and obvious effects.

But then, a lot of people who like so-called scary movies like the obvious. Subtlety is wasted on them.

Going to disagree somewhat with that statement. I have written in the past that it's best when the audience is required to use their imaginations, but sometimes that can be overdone-- and sometimes it is done because let's be real the film lacks budget to create the special effects to show us something instead of having us imagine it off-camera.

 

The reason why I think we need to show some of it, and not always use the imagination, is because we need to come face to face with some of the horror. As viewers, we do need to be startled and jolted out of our seats sometimes. Consider the scene in PSYCHO in the basement of the Bates home-- if Vera Miles did not venture down there and turn the mother's dead body around, we would not be jolted. If Hitchcock had shown her go downstairs (off-camera) and then after a moment scream and run back up, it would not have had the same effect. We needed to go with her downstairs, to see the horror of that corpse rotting down there.

 

A good analogy here is the use of close-ups. Some directors over-use them and their films do lack subtlety. But if a film used all long shots and medium shots and we never saw any details up close, essentially being forced to use our imaginations for everything, it would get tedious and lose some of its dramatic impact. A good director will balance the long shots, medium shots and close-ups. And a good director, budget willing, will imply things AND show things to the viewer. It's about balance.

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TB, I should have clarified. I'm just talking about ghost stories, not "horror" movies, which to me is a different genre.

I agree, what you are shown in, say, a film like Psycho, is extremely effective, and Hitchcock made good decisions about what the audience will see.

But that's a horror story, that's about , well, a psycho killer (qu'est- ce que c'est) and his maniacal deeds. Ghost stories are more about presences from another world that can't be explained. By their very nature they're mysterious and uncanny, which is what makes them frightening.

 

Aside from the above, both The Innocents and The Haunting do reveal  manifestations of the otherworldly presences. The face in the window, for instance, in The Innocents, and other ghostly incidents too numerous to mention.

As for The Haunting, the audience is treated to terrifying supernatural events again and again.

 

Of course the viewer wouldn't find these films frightening if they gave us nothing out of the ordinary to see or hear. But it's done with a subtlety missing from most films about ghosts.

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"Scary?" Extremely so.. As is the scene in the grasses you refer to, with Deborah Kerr looking in horror at the ghost, who remains absolutely still throughout. This, to me, is the most frightening aspect of that scene. The ghost doesn't move. Even when Kerr looks away and then looks back, the ghost is still there. The very stillness of the scene is what makes it so eerie.

 

"Ghostess"? Never heard that term before. I don't believe it's necessary to feminize the word "ghost".

 

The Innocents is one of the scariest movies I've ever seen, on a level with The Haunting. Both films use what you don't see, what you supply in your own imagination, rather than explicit and obvious effects.

But then, a lot of people who like so-called scary movies like the obvious. Subtlety is wasted on them.

maybe my sinus headache got in the way of my appreciating the horrific suggestiveness of The Innocents and deborah kerr's later even more lame effort eye of the devil. :D there has to be some visual horror as demonstrated time and time again in the hammer horror films. Dan Curtis told this tale much more effectively in the 1974 tv-movie The Turn of the Screw with Lynn Redgrave playing the governess.

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It seems like TCM shows this an awful lot, year in and year out. They must own a copy of it.

 

Anyway, I've seen it several times. I wrote about it at IMDb - where I gave it a 7 out of 10 score (I'm not as inclined to consider it a master work as some are) and I guess I was feeling a little cranky when I wrote the following comment back in 2006:

 

Only One Shiver

 

The woman seen staring across the lake is the only scene that actually gave me a shiver and I believe it's the only scene that gives any validity to this being a 'ghost' movie. If it weren't for this one instance in the film I would have to conclude that the governess is just plain batty. The ending is particularly baffling to me in that I fail to be convinced that her hysteria could cause a healthy eleven year old boy to expire. Particularly one as intelligent and adult-like as Miles.

So why do I give it a 7 out of 10? First, because of the performances of the children. Flawless. Second, the black and white cinematography. Innovative and atmospheric. Third, it has all the potential to be as good a ghost story as so many reviewers here seem to think it is - if only there were a few more chilling moments on par with the 'woman by the lake' scene. If only.

 

I haven't watched it since I wrote that, but I doubt I'll change my mind if I watch it again.

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It seems like TCM shows this an awful lot, year in and year out. They must own a copy of it.

 

Anyway, I've seen it several times. I wrote about it at IMDb - where I gave it a 7 out of 10 score (I'm not as inclined to consider it a master work as some are) and I guess I was feeling a little cranky when I wrote the following comment back in 2006:

 

Only One Shiver

 

The woman seen staring across the lake is the only scene that actually gave me a shiver and I believe it's the only scene that gives any validity to this being a 'ghost' movie. If it weren't for this one instance in the film I would have to conclude that the governess is just plain batty. The ending is particularly baffling to me in that I fail to be convinced that her hysteria could cause a healthy eleven year old boy to expire. Particularly one as intelligent and adult-like as Miles.

 

So why do I give it a 7 out of 10? First, because of the performances of the children. Flawless. Second, the black and white cinematography. Innovative and atmospheric. Third, it has all the potential to be as good a ghost story as so many reviewers here seem to think it is - if only there were a few more chilling moments on par with the 'woman by the lake' scene. If only.

 

I haven't watched it since I wrote that, but I doubt I'll change my mind if I watch it again.

just before miles expires in deborah kerr's arms, she sees peter quint (peter wyngarde) laughing at her through some window panes. then moments later quint raises a hand from a parapet or something and miles kicks off. :)

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just before miles expires in deborah kerr's arms, she sees peter quint (peter wyngarde) laughing at her through some window panes. then moments later quint raises a hand from a parapet or something and miles kicks off. :)

 

Yeah, that's real believable. I wonder how much quicker the kid woulda croaked if he'd been able to see the "ghost" too.

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Well, db, we disagree somewhat on the quality of The Innocents (or at least, its "scare" quality), since as you must have read, I'm amongst those viewers who think it's a great ghost movie. But that's fine, you give very good reasons as to  your opinion of it. Nice write-up.

 

I have no problem with Miles' death (that sounds awful- I mean I have no problem with the probablility of the boy's death), because I do believe that he was possessed by the evil spirit of Peter Quint, therefore it's entirely plausible to me that the demonic ghost would have precipitated Miles' sudden and otherwise inexplicable demise.

To me, a large part of a "haunting" movie is about atmosphere, the look of the film, the shadows, the soundtrack music ( and other sounds.) I find The Innocents completely effective in this regard. It has an uneasy feeling throughout the film that, for me anyway, largely contributes to its eerieness.

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NipkowDisc, you must have somehow missed my commments on the whole "visual" element in scary movies. So I'll re-post it:

 

"... I should have clarified. I'm just talking about ghost stories, not "horror" movies, which to me is a different genre.

I agree, what you are shown in, say, a film like Psycho, is extremely effective, and Hitchcock made good decisions about what the audience will see.

But that's a horror story, that's about , well, a psycho killer (qu'est- ce que c'est) and his maniacal deeds. Ghost stories are more about presences from another world that can't be explained. By their very nature they're mysterious and uncanny, which is what makes them frightening.

 

Aside from the above, both The Innocents and The Haunting do reveal manifestations of the otherworldly presences. The face in the window, for instance, in The Innocents, and other ghostly incidents too numerous to mention.

As for The Haunting, the audience is treated to terrifying supernatural events again and again.

 

Of course the viewer wouldn't find these films frightening if they gave us nothing out of the ordinary to see or hear. But it's done with a subtlety missing from most films about ghosts."

 

 

 

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The first time I saw the movie, I pretty much accepted that it was a "real" ghost movie. However, on subsequent viewings I began to have some doubts. As I said before, the lady across the lake is quite convincing - but the claim of the kids to not know what the hell the governess is going on about when she sees the ghosts does instill doubt. Also, her over the top insistence makes me wonder about her nervous condition in general.

 

Of course, this ambiguity is present in the novel that the movie is based on as well. Apparently, either "conclusion" is equally valid - and even Henry James himself resisted clarification on the matter.

 

Here's something from Wiki:

 

The dispute over the ghosts' reality has had a real effect on some critics, most notably Edmund Wilson, one of the first major proponents of the insane governess theory. Wilson eventually recanted his opinion after considering the governess's point-by-point description of Quint. Then John Silver pointed out hints in the story that the governess might have gained previous knowledge of Quint's appearance in non-supernatural ways. This induced Wilson to recant his recantation and return to his original opinion that the governess was delusional and that the ghosts existed only in her imagination.

 

William Veeder sees Miles's eventual death as induced by the governess. In a complex psychoanalytic reading, Veeder concludes that the governess expressed her repressed rage toward her father and toward the master of Bly on Miles.

 

Other critics, however, have strongly defended the governess. They note that James's letters, his New York Edition preface, and his Notebooks contain no definite evidence that The Turn of the Screw was intended as anything other than a straightforward ghost story, and James certainly wrote ghost stories that did not depend on the narrator's imagination. For example, “Owen Wingrave includes a ghost that causes its title character's sudden death, although no one actually sees it. James's Notebooks entry indicates that he was inspired originally by a tale he heard from Edward White Benson, the Archbishop of Canterbury. There are indications that the story James was told was about an incident in Hinton Ampner, where in 1771 a woman named Mary Ricketts moved from her home after the apparitions of a man and a woman day and night, staring through the windows, bending over the beds, and making her feel her children were in danger.

 

Perhaps the critical perspective that best captures James's own thinking and methods, given the work's notably rococo style, which incessantly qualifies statements and counters any attempt at straightforward exposition, is that of Brad Leithauser:

 

"All such attempts to 'solve' the book, however admiringly tendered, unwittingly work toward its diminution; its profoundest pleasure lies in the beautifully fussed over way in which James refuses to come down on either side... the book becomes a modest monument to the bold pursuit of ambiguity".

 

According to Leithauser, we are meant to entertain both the proposition that the governess is mad and the proposition that the ghosts really do exist, and consider the dreadful implications of each.

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That kiss freaked a lot of people out. Britain declared the movie had to be rated X (which meant restricted to 16 and over) just because of that one very peculiar scene.

 

And it's yet one more piece of evidence leading to the conclusion that the governess is kookoo.

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The first time I saw the movie, I pretty much accepted that it was a "real" ghost movie. However, on subsequent viewings I began to have some doubts. As I said before, the lady across the lake is quite convincing - but the claim of the kids to not know what the hell the governess is going on about when she sees the ghosts does instill doubt. Also, her over the top insistence makes me wonder about her nervous condition in general.

 

Of course, this ambiguity is present in the novel that the movie is based on as well. Apparently, either "conclusion" is equally valid - and even Henry James himself resisted clarification on the matter....

 

  "All such attempts to 'solve' the book, however admiringly tendered, unwittingly work toward its diminution; its profoundest pleasure lies in the beautifully fussed over way in which James refuses to come down on either side... the book becomes a modest monument to the bold pursuit of ambiguity"....

 

Well, as the Monty Python lads so aptly put it,

"Where's the ambiguity? In a box in the corner!" Whatever that means, which, if you're familiar with Monty Python, is probably nothing.

Sorry, I couldn't resist.

 

As to whether Deborah Kerr's character is mentally ill and is imagining the ghosts, yes, ,that's a very popular interpretation. The strongest argument for this idea is, as one of the critics you quoted mentions, the children's continuous avowals that they see and hear nothing that their governess claims she hears and sees, to the point where they seem to become confused and upset when she insists the spirits are there and that they "must" see them.

 

The strongest case for the ghosts being real is the governess' description of Peter Quint, when speaking to the housekeeper about what she saw. The description is accurate to every detail, and the housekeeper says so.

I read what one of the critics says about how Kerr's character might have somehow heard a previous description of the man, or seen a photograph of him, or some such thing. But I dismiss this explanation, because it would not have been film making in good faith to just have the audience assume this. In all fairness, director Jack Clayton would have had to include some kind of scene in the film to indicate Miss Giddens had at some point somehow heard or seen a description of Quint's appearance, and there is none.

 

I don't think it's fair, in a story such as this, for the director/screenwriter to just assume that the viewers will think the woman has heard what Quint looked like. We can only go by the information we're given on-screen.

 

I did read and appreciate the intelligent and insightful comments critics and literary types wrote about this story.

I really should subdue my dislike for Henry James and hunt out that copy of The Turn of the Screw I have lying around somewhere.

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Maybe the strongest case for the ghosts being real is Miles' demise. It's just not believable that he'd die for any other reason than a supernatural one - I don't care how complex the psychological explanation postulated by William Veeder is.

 

The prequel movie (1971's 'The Nightcomers') pretty much decides what's what. Here's my IMDb comment for that one:

 

It's the Explanation

 

For the inscrutable yet precocious personalities of Miles and Flora evident in the 1961 film 'The Innocents'. As well, the ghosts of that movie are fleshed out nicely in this prequel. Quint is a morally repugnant character, sadistic and controlling, but he's also darkly magnetic as the corrupter of the lovely young governess who submits to (and even embraces) his perverted ideas of sexuality. Together they are fated to become the imprisoned souls that haunt the estate. Together they have inflicted unknowable damage to the psyches of the children.

Brando is very good in the role of Quint. He gives the character a credibility and powerfulness that one would expect from a personality who will ultimately refuse to leave, even after his bizarre death. Few actors would be convincing enough to portray such a reprehensible protagonist and still be vaguely, mysteriously likable. That Brando can deliver this affect with legitimacy is not surprising, genius that he is. Another who might have been very interesting to watch in this role is Dirk Bogarde.

The director's visual styling of the film is it's most unfavorable aspect and prevents it from being excellent. In any case, this unusual little entry has always been a tad underrated. I suspect that now that Marlon has passed on an overdue re-assessment is likely.

 

 

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 there has to be some visual horror as demonstrated time and time again in the hammer horror films. Dan Curtis told this tale much more effectively in the 1974 tv-movie The Turn of the Screw with Lynn Redgrave playing the governess.

I agree. Ghost stories can be (and often are) horror stories. Sometimes we have to see the ghost, or see the other-world being, to get a sense of how 'real' it is.

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"The Innocents" is a great psychologicla horror movie. It works either way if  the ghost are real or they are just a manisfestation of governess mind.  It's a beautifull chilling classic.  There is a   Spanish production in which the governess is man.

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I read what one of the critics says about how Kerr's character might have somehow heard a previous description of the man, or seen a photograph of him, or some such thing. But I dismiss this explanation, because it would not have been film making in good faith to just have the audience assume this. In all fairness, director Jack Clayton would have had to include some kind of scene in the film to indicate Miss Giddens had at some point somehow heard or seen a description of Quint's appearance, and there is none.

 

I seem to recall that there was one. After she sees Quint's ghost for the first time, and then describes him, she says that she had seen his picture before. It was one of the pictures in the attic, or something like that. It's necessary for her to have actually seen him, in order to maintain the ambiguity of her condition, but when she saw his ghost she didn't know who he was or that the man in the photo was dead. That's the way I remember it, anyway.

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Thanks for the post, Kay.

Full disclosure: I've seen The Innocents several times, but did not watch it the other night. So my memory on whether Kerr's character sees a picture of Quint or not may be a little rusty.

 

But it does seem to me that, when the astonished ( and somewhat creeped out) housekeeper tells Miss Giddens that she has just described Peter Quint to a t ( and why not an "s"?), Giddens feels uncomfortable about how she knows what he looks like, and says she saw his picture because it's less odd and unnerving than saying she saw his face in the window. In other words, she made up the bit about seeing the man's picture to give a logical explanation to the housekeeper for why she knew what he looked like.

Could be wrong about this theory, though- I'd have to see the scene again.

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MissWonderly,

 

Could be, but that would also take some assuming on the audience's part. Anyway, it seems to me that Kerr's character never seemed to be concerned about how crazy she looked, hah.

 

Someone told me that we might actually get to see her find the photograph in a scene before the ghost sighting. I don't actually remember that happening. Does anyone else remember that?

 

(Edit: Correction on my previous post- it was actually after she saw his ghost the second time. I forgot she saw him on top of the building from a distance at first. I don't know if she saw his picture before or after that first sighting.)

Edited by Kay
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The Innocents be not as good as The Haunting. it doan have julie harris as the irritating neurotic nell lance. :)

 

What I don't like about THE HAUNTING is Julie Harlow's condemnation of Claire Bloom's sexuality, so damningly. It makes her annoying, whining neurotic character intolerable to watch, at least.for me. I know these are modern sensibilities judging a movie that is half a century old, and the.prevailing moreso of the time, but it ruins the movie for.me.

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What I don't like about THE HAUNTING is Julie Harlow's condemnation of Claire Bloom's sexuality, so damningly. It makes her annoying, whining neurotic character intolerable to watch, at least.for me. I know these are modern sensibilities judging a movie that is half a century old, and the.prevailing moreso of the time, but it ruins the movie for.me.

 

Really? Well, Theo (Claire Bloom) seemed to know that Eleanor (Julie Harris) was stressed out and said things she didn't really mean. Eleanor may have just said the most hurtful thing she could think of in order to defend herself from Theo's constant jabbing and belittling of the situation. If Theo can forgive her so easily, can't you? Maybe?

 

Whoops, here we are talking about the wrong ghost movie. Seems to happen so naturally.

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