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The Innocents

Beautifully filmed in haunting black and white, 1961's THE INNOCENTS is an interesting and creepy study in human behavior.

Deborah Kerr is Miss Giddens, a young new governess to two young children in their uncle's sprawling mansion.

Pamela Franklin would grow up to star in another terrific haunted house movie, "The Legend of Hell House" 12 years later, but here she plays young Flora.

Her brother Miles (a very creepy Martin Stephens just after his role in "Village of the Damned") grows more disturbing by the day, talking like a posh 50 year old gentleman one moment and tightening his arm around Kerr's throat the next.

Based on "The Turn of the Screw" by Henry James and adapted for the screen by Truman Capote, its a taut exercise in creating scares without the graphic horror of today's films.

Like "The Haunting" of the same era, sound, slowly emerging specters and perfectly still ghosts do the trick.

Is Miss Giddens crazy?

Are the children possessed by the dead?

You'll be guessing right up to and after the finale, which must have been controversial back in the early 60's.

Kerr is excellent.

Truffaut called this the best English film of the era after Hitchcock had relocated to America.

You can't deny its visual impact. Director of Photography Freddie Francis (The Elephant Man, Dune) uses light and shadow brilliantly and the HD version we watched really popped. It was joked at the time that he used so many bright lights filming the massive sets that he nearly burned down Shepperton Studios daily.

Nearly 60 years after its release, THE INNOCENTS still manages to induce growing unease, from the first notes of that 45 seconds of a child singing over a jet black screen to it's final, disturbing kiss.

It gets a B.

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