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Directed by Jack Clayton
UK 1961

"The best ghost movie I've ever seen"  - Pauline Kael

 

Jack Clayton's celebrated screen adaptation of Henry James's The Turn of the Screw (1898) is a brilliant exercise in psychological horror. Impressionable and repressed governess Miss Giddens (Deborah Kerr) agrees to tutor two orphaned children, Miles and Flora. On arrival at Bly House, she becomes convinced that the children are possessed by the perverse spirits of former governess Miss Jessel and her Heathcliffe-like lover Quint (Peter Wyngarde), who both met with mysterious deaths.

The film's sinister atmosphere is carefully created - not through shock tactics, but through its cinematography, soundtrack, and decor: Freddie Francis' beautiful CinemaScope photography, with its eerily indistinct long shots and mysterious manifestations at the edges of the frame; an evocative and spooky soundtrack; and the grand yet decaying Bly House.

Deborah Kerr gives the performance of her career and makes The Innocents an intensely unsettling experience. Are the ghosts the products of Miss Giddens' fevered imagination and emotional immaturity, or a displacement of her shock at the sexually precocious behaviour of ten-year-old Miles? Is she the protector or the corrupter?

Now widely considered to be one of the greatest of all ghost stories on film, The Innocents continues to inspire today's 'haunted house' movies, most notably The Others (Alejandro Amenábar, 2001)
.

***

Based on Henry James's TURN OF THE SCREW, THE INNOCENTS is a chilling psychological horror film about a woman, Miss Giddens (Kerr), who takes a position as governess for two orphans in a stately Victorian home. Alone with the children and only a few servants, Miss Giddens soon begins to see what she believes to be ghosts and begins to suspect that the children's increasingly bizarre behaviour may be the result of some supernatural power. When she learns the fate of the house's previous governess and valet, Miss Giddens takes it upon herself to rescue the children from the supernatural being that seems to have them in its grips, all the while questioning her own sanity. Kerr's nuanced performance, possibly the best of her career, and Francis's atmospheric cinematography help make this a true horror classic.

 

Posters

Theatrical Release: December 25th, 1961

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Comparison:

20th Century Fox - Region 1 - NTSC vs. BFI - Region 2 - PAL vs. BFI - Region 'B' - Blu-ray vs. Criterion - Region 'A' - Blu-ray

1) 20th Century Fox - Region 1 - NTSC - LEFT

2) BFI - Region 2 - PAL - SECOND

3) BFI Video Region 'B' - Blu-ray - THIRD

4) Criterion Video - Region 'A' - Blu-ray RIGHT

 

Box Covers

   

 

Distribution 20th Century Fox Home Video - Region 1 - NTSC

BFI Video

Region 2- PAL

BFI Video
Region 'B' -
Blu-ray

Criterion Collection Spine # 727

Region 'A'  - Blu-ray

Runtime 1:39:51  1:35:51 (4% PAL speedup) 1:39:59.243 1:40:12.089
Video 2.35:1 Original Aspect Ratio
Average Bitrate: 5.32 mb/s
NTSC 720x480 29.97 f/s
2.35:1 Aspect Ratio
Average Bitrate: 6.469 mb/s
PAL 720x576 25.00 f/s

1080P Dual-layered Blu-ray

Disc Size: 40,213,347,264 bytes

Feature: 21,720,468,672 bytes

Video Bitrate: 24.01 Mbps

Codec: MPEG-4 AVC Video

1080P Dual-layered Blu-ray

Disc Size: 45,152,300,440 bytes

Feature: 29,568,933,888 bytes

Video Bitrate: 34.99 Mbps

Codec: MPEG-4 AVC Video

NOTE: The Vertical axis represents the bits transferred per second. The Horizontal is the time in minutes.

Bitrate:  Fox

Bitrate:  BFI

Bitrate:  BFI Blu-ray

Bitrate:  Criterion Blu-ray

Audio English (Dolby Digital 2.0), DUB: Spanish (Dolby Digital Mono)   English (Dolby Digital 2.0) LPCM Audio English 1536 kbps 2.0 / 48 kHz / 1536 kbps / 16-bit
LPCM Audio English 1536 kbps 2.0 / 48 kHz / 1536 kbps / 16-bit
LPCM Audio English 1152 kbps 1.0 / 48 kHz / 1152 kbps / 24-bit
Dolby Digital Audio English 192 kbps 1.0 / 48 kHz / 192 kbps
Subtitles English, Spanish, None English (for both feature and commentary), None English (for both feature and commentary), None English, None
Features

Release Information:
Studio: 20th Century Fox Home Video

Aspect Ratio:
Original aspect Ratio 2.35:1

Edition Details:

• Theatrical trailer
• Fox Flix
• "If you like this film you may want to buy..."

DVD Release Date: September 6th, 2005

Keep Case
Chapters: 28

Release Information:
Studio: BFI Video

Aspect Ratio:
Original aspect Ratio 2.35:1

Edition Details:

• Commentary with Professor Christopher Frayling
• Original trailer for The Innocents
• The Bespoke Overcoat (Jack Clayton, 1955, 33 mins) - Jack Clayton's first film as director - an Oscar and BAFTA award-winning short starring Alfie Bass and David Kossoff
• Stills gallery including original costume designs, publicity posters, press books and production pictures
• Booklet including film notes by Jeremy Dyson (The League of Gentlemen)

DVD Release Date: December 10th, 2006

Three-tiered digipak inside cardboard box
Chapters: 14

Release Information:
Studio: BFI Video

1080P Dual-layered Blu-ray

Disc Size: 40,213,347,264 bytes

Feature: 21,720,468,672 bytes

Video Bitrate: 24.01 Mbps

Codec: MPEG-4 AVC Video

Edition Details:

• Filmed introduction and commentary with Professor Christopher Frayling
• Original trailer for The Innocents
• Naples is a Battle Field (Jack Clayton, 1944, 13mins) Rare and previously unseen RAF film
• The Bespoke Overcoat (Jack Clayton, 1955, 33 mins) - Jack Clayton's first film as director - an Oscar and BAFTA award-winning short starring Alfie Bass and David Kossoff
• Stills gallery including original costume designs, publicity posters, press books and production pictures
• Extensive 30-page illustrated booklet including film notes by Jeremy Dyson (The League of Gentlemen)

Blu-ray Release Date: August 23rd, 2010
Standard Blu-ray Case

Chapters: 14

Release Information:
Studio: Criterion
 

1080P Dual-layered Blu-ray

Disc Size: 45,152,300,440 bytes

Feature: 29,568,933,888 bytes

Video Bitrate: 34.99 Mbps

Codec: MPEG-4 AVC Video

 

Edition Details:

• Introduction by cultural historian Christopher Frayling (23:19)
• Audio commentary featuring Frayling
• New interview with cinematographer John Bailey about director of photography Freddie Francis and the look of the film (18:54)
• New piece on the making of the film, featuring interviews from 2006 with Francis, editor Jim Clark, and script supervisor Pamela Mann Francis (13:48)
• Trailer (2:50)
• PLUS: An essay by critic Maitland McDonagh

Blu-ray Release Date: September 23rd, 2014
Transparent
Blu-ray Case
Chapters: 14

 

 

 

Comments:

NOTE: The below Blu-ray captures were taken directly from the Blu-ray disc.

ADDITION: (September 2014) Criterion Region 'A' - Blu-ray: Wow, the Criterion looks dramatically better. First and foremost it does not have the horizontal stretching (Cinemascope mumps?) that is noticeable on the BFI 1080P. You can really see it if you toggle between the large (linked) captures which are crisper and notably superior and the US transfer shows more information in the frame - notably on the right edge. It is a more robust technical transfer with a max'ed out bitrate. It is darker but far more film-like, IMO.

The audio is a mono linear PCM track. It sounds authentically flat but the lossless transfer exports some depth that is notable in the score by Georges Auric (It Always Rains on Sunday, Dead of Night, Heaven Knows Mr. Allison, Lola Montes, Rififi, Wages of Fear). There is a slight difference between the Criterion and BFI's LPCM audio transfers - it may be a tinnier high end in the US disc. It offers optional English subtitles and the Criterion Blu-ray is region 'A'-locked.

Duplicated from the BFI Blu-ray release are the introduction and full-length commentary by cultural historian Christopher Frayling. Criterion add a new, 20-minute, interview with cinematographer John Bailey about director of photography Freddie Francis and the look of the film and another new piece - about 14-minutes - on the making of the film, featuring interviews from 2006 with Francis, editor Jim Clark, and script supervisor Pamela Mann Francis. There is a trailer and the package contains a liner notes booklet with an essay by critic Maitland McDonagh.

Just on the image alone the Criterion Blu-ray is the release to own.

***

ADDITION: (August 2010) BFI Region 'B' - Blu-ray: Firstly, both DVDs were very strong - but this dual-layered 1080P transfer from the BFI does indeed improve especially in the visibility of grain - which is far easier to see providing some earthy texture to the visuals. Detail also improves to a lesser degree and contrast remains strong. It seems slightly horizontally stretched - possibly Cinemascope 'mumps'.

This may be exclusive to screeners but a friend with a modified Oppo - saw pixilation at times but my own screener copy played smoothly on my Momitsu 899. I fast forwarded and created some artifacts but couldn't repeat the experiment. There may be modest instability but we will have another viewing on a 799 machine and report back here if there is any validity to it. For the most part this Blu-ray looks wonderful and held up well on my system. There was no chroma or digital manipulation that I could determine.

NOTE: Sent from Eric: "...some haze is intentional in the cinematography of the film. Francis shot some of the scenes with hand-painted red filters "mainly to enclose the Cinemascope format" - he later used these filters in some of the color horror films he directed for a completely different type of effect like the monster POV shots in some of his Hammer and Tyburn films (from an interview by Barry King HERE). - thanks Eric!

We get a linear PCM 2.0 channel at 1500 Kbps it has some suspenseful depth in the score and definitely appears to improve over the DVD audio rendering. There are some nice subtle effects that come through well - even in the stereo. Optional English subtitles are included and my Momitsu has identified it as being region 'B'-locked.  

Extras appear duplicated from the 2006 BFI DVD including the excellent commentary by Christopher Frayling and inclusion of the shorts Naples is a Battle Field (Jack Clayton, 1944, 13mins) and rare RAF film The Bespoke Overcoat. There is a stills gallery including original costume designs, publicity posters, press books and production pictures and an extensive 30-page illustrated booklet including film notes by Jeremy Dyson (The League of Gentlemen).

This is a beautiful and haunting film that I never tire of revisiting every couple of years. Kerr is her usual fantastic-self and the Blu-ray gave me the spookiest viewing that I've yet seen of The Innocents. This is a film that can be a bit of an enigma and I always tend to recall Picnic at Hanging Rock - perhaps for all the unspoken and eerie moments viewing the austere surroundings. I consider the film an essential on many fronts.

Gary W. Tooze

****

ADDITION: BFI DVD - December 06' : Although it may not be as obviously noticeable from the screen captures - the BFI is easily the superior transfer. It is smoother, sharper and has less artifacts. It is pristine.  

Professor Christopher Frayling gives a stupendous commentary (with optional subtitles) where he discusses everything from the films flower imagery to Capote's strong input on the screenplay. He is fully prepared and I can't imagine anyone knowing more about the film than this man. Excellent listening. There is also an introduction by the man, plus a 30 minute short by Jack Clayton entitled The Bespoke Overcoat, a stills gallery and a beautifully bound booklet. The packaging is also magnificent - this is a wonderful DVD set and I will be considering it in the DVD of the Year voting.

***

The FOX: A beautifully shot film only enhances this DVD image - which is still strong in its own right. Good grays and shadow detail, plus we love the scope. It has some haziness at times but nothing untoward. No worthy extras, but a decent price and a great film for the money. We recommend!

Gary W. Tooze

 



DVD Menus

 

(20th Century Fox - Region 1 - NTSC LEFT vs. BFI - Region 2 - PAL RIGHT)


 
 
 

 

BFI Video - Region 'B' - Blu-ray

 

 

Criterion Video - Region 'A' - Blu-ray

 


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Subtitle Sample

 

1) 20th Century Fox - Region 1 - NTSC - TOP

2) BFI - Region 2 - PAL - SECOND

3) BFI Video Region 'B' - Blu-ray - THIRD

4) Criterion - Region 'A' - Blu-ray BOTTOM

 

Screen Captures

 

1) 20th Century Fox - Region 1 - NTSC - TOP

2) BFI - Region 2 - PAL - SECOND

3) BFI Video Region 'B' - Blu-ray - THIRD

4) Criterion - Region 'A' - Blu-ray BOTTOM

 


 

1) 20th Century Fox - Region 1 - NTSC - TOP

2) BFI - Region 2 - PAL - SECOND

3) BFI Video Region 'B' - Blu-ray - THIRD

4) Criterion - Region 'A' - Blu-ray BOTTOM

 


 

1) 20th Century Fox - Region 1 - NTSC - TOP

2) BFI - Region 2 - PAL - SECOND

3) BFI Video Region 'B' - Blu-ray - THIRD

4) Criterion - Region 'A' - Blu-ray BOTTOM

 


 

1) 20th Century Fox - Region 1 - NTSC - TOP

2) BFI - Region 2 - PAL - SECOND

3) BFI Video Region 'B' - Blu-ray - THIRD

4) Criterion - Region 'A' - Blu-ray BOTTOM

 


 

1) 20th Century Fox - Region 1 - NTSC - TOP

2) BFI - Region 2 - PAL - SECOND

3) BFI Video Region 'B' - Blu-ray - THIRD

4) Criterion - Region 'A' - Blu-ray BOTTOM

 

More Blu-ray Captures

 

1) BFI Video Region 'B' - Blu-ray - TOP

2) Criterion - Region 'A' - Blu-ray BOTTOM

 

 

1) BFI Video Region 'B' - Blu-ray - TOP

2) Criterion  - Region 'A' - Blu-ray BOTTOM

 

 

1) BFI Video Region 'B' - Blu-ray - TOP

2) Criterion - Region 'A' - Blu-ray BOTTOM

 

More BFI Blu-ray Captures

More Criterion Blu-ray Captures

 

Box Covers

   

 

Distribution 20th Century Fox Home Video - Region 1 - NTSC

BFI Video

Region 2- PAL

BFI Video
Region 'B' -
Blu-ray

Criterion Collection Spine # 727

Region 'A'  - Blu-ray

 





 

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Gary Tooze