The Innocents (Jack Clayton, 1961)
A young governess for two children becomes convinced that the house and grounds are haunted.
Starring Deborah Kerr, produced and directed by Jack Clayton, shot by cinematographer Freddie Francis who later would direct Horror classics at Hammer Films, and co-written by Truman Capote, The Innocents had the right formula to please any film buff out there. With high expectations and a recent viewing of Robert Wise’s The Haunting, I entered in this Classic ghost story.
Miss Giddens (Deborah Kerr), is a young woman who agrees to become the governess of two children raise in the country at a majestic manor. The whole place, his gardens, the many rooms, the deco, and even the young Flora are charming. Everything goes very well until young Miles comes back from school because he was expelled for a mysterious reason. Starting there, the house will seem inhabited by spectres and Miss Giddens will do whatever she can to protect the children and expel the unwelcomed ghosts.
The whole crew who worked on The Innocents was experienced and expert in his field. The use of space, sound, and the construction of frame is outstanding. Compared to The Haunting, the actual manifestations of the paranormal are visible and we clearly discover who the ghosts were. This is an element that withdraws the effect of fright and that reminded Alfred Hitchcock’s Rebecca in many ways.
Clearly, this landmark of ghost movies will influence the use of children in Horror movies for years to come and Deborah Kerr’s performance is outstanding just as the dame is known for. However, triple billed with The Haunting and Cat People, The Innocents seemed to be the blandest and the most traditional film of the three. Plus, the type of ghost story of The Innocents has been reproduced so many times that the original, while being widely influential, loses its luster.