Not being nostalgic, but this movie classic is definitely scarier than any numbing gut drenching slasher films of today’s. A black and white, cinemascope (first 2.4: 1), film that demanded technical skills of light controls, camera works, and music co-ordination: no CGI, no handheld dizzy cam, no projectiles (lamps, china, books…), … Despite only four main actors in the entire film, it was more than sufficient to deliver a bone-chilling psycho-supernatural-suspense-horror film that will have you sitting on the edge of your seat, wondering if the shadows were solely Miss Giddens‘s (Deborah Kerr) creations, and nothing but pranks of two naughty, abandoned, brother, Miles (Martin Stephens), and sister, Flora(Pamela Franklin).
The story took place in the Victorian period, where religion and moral were upheld and chastened. Miss Gidden is applying for a governess position, interviewed by an uncle(Michael Redgrave), who took in a niece and nephew after their parents’ death. At the uncle insistence, Miss Gidden acquiesces, and accepts the request that under no circumstances that he will not be contacted.
A carriage carries Miss. Gidden to an old mansion with lake, gazebo, and acres of parkland landscaped with trees, foliage, and flowers … the sight is too much for her to take in. As enchanting and big as the place is, it is also isolated and desolated, with quiet resonance of songs and murmurs echoes in the air. As Miss Giddens walks to the house through the path that overlooks the lake, the camera takes a POV of Miss Gidden seeing the broad landscape, as she arrives at the gazebo, she sees a reflection on the lake, floating white dress: Flora.
The mansion is big, but only a few inhabitants: cook, maid, Mrs. Grose(Megs Jenkins) and the kids, Miss Gidden is awed by the grandeur of the house, one that’s beyond her imagination. She happily settles in. Upon receiving a letter from Miles’s school headmaster, she learns that he has been expelled. Miles returns and Flora cannot contain her excitement. Miss Gidden must deal with Miles’s behavioural problems, which was the cause of his dismissal.
As with any country houses, gossips are abundant. First, Miss Gidden finds out the last governess, Miss Jessol(Clytie Jessop), committed suicide, and there once lived a footman, who was a cruel abuser and a drunk. One night he laid dead at the doorsteps, and young Miles found him; Miles admires Peter Quint(Peter Wyngarde). Miss Gidden believes the children are possessed by these uncleaned soul of the netherworld, and she must rid of them for the children sake, and not just with prayers but actions. She doesn’t even want the vicar’s helps.
Although the story is nothing new for us now, the reason you will want to watch this is because of its style, atmosphere, and characters, especially with Kerr’s Miss Gidden.
The scenes in this film have been used so many times in other films that confirms its accolade as a true classic of the genre: psychological thriller. One in particular is The Others (2001), take a look at both posters. In fact, it used the exact same techniques as in The Innocents: dark hallways, big house, 2 kids, radiant of the candle lights,…