August 8, 2011

The Nightcomers (1971)

"Prequel to the Henry James classic 'Turn of the Screw' about the events leading up to the deaths of Peter Quint and Miss Jessel, and the the slow corruption of the children in their care."

This is a weird one. You are probably all familiar with "Turn of the Screw" or "The Innocents", but I bet you've never heard of Michael Winner's 1971 prequel to it.

Apart from the names of the characters, "The Nightcomers" has very little in common with "The Innocents" as it isn't even a ghost story. It's all about the strange sado-masochistic relationship between Peter Quint (Marlon Brando) and Miss Jessel (Stephanie Beacham) with the effect that they are having on the children as an afterthought.

If you've ever wanted to see Stephanie Beacham naked then this is the film for you. Other than that, it's pretty dull, sometimes plodding, and not a very enjoyable experience at all.

With a couple of scenes of animal cruelty (to a frog and a tortoise), a borderline incestuous relationship between the children, Marlon Brando's bizarre attempt at an Irish accent, and as many plot holes as you could drive a horse-drawn carriage through, "The Nightcomers" stinks as a movie, but it's still a curiosity nonetheless.

The camerawork is okay and it's nice to see England as it used to be at any time. Some of the shots aren't exactly brilliant but they are still more than acceptable.

As far as the acting goes, it's also just okay. Thora Hird overacts as a scolding housekeeper, and the kids are the usual stage school kind with their embarrassingly posh English accents and no chance of ever working again after the '70s. In case you wonder about it (as I did), the girl who played Flora (Verna Harvey) was actually nineteen at the time so it's alright to look if you want to.

"The Nightcomers" is not really a horror movie (until the end) or a particularly good one but if you've ever wondered what a piece of erotic fan fiction based on one of your own favourite movies would look like, this is probably how it would turn out if you let Michael Winner direct it.

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