UK movie (1971, but copyright 1972). Avco Embassy/Kastner Ladd Kanter/Scimitar. Pr Michael Winner. Dir Winner. Screenplay Michael Hastings. Based on characters in "The Turn of the Screw" (1898) by Henry James. Novelization The Nightcomers * (1972) by Hastings. Starring Harry Andrews (The Master), Stephanie Beacham (Margaret Jessel), Marlon Brando (Peter Quint), Christopher Ellis (Miles), Verna Harvey (Flora), Thora Hird (Mrs Grose), Anna Palk (Miss Giddens). 97 mins. Colour.
A prequel to the James novella, and hence to The Innocents (1961), this shows the Children of the house corrupted both by the kinky sexual affair between Quint and Jessel, on whose activities they spy, and by the hypocrisy of all the adult characters. Quint is depicted as an Irish Fertility symbol – cruel and caring all at the same time – so that the "corruption" he spreads might be seen as an assault on "good" Christianity, as epitomized by the puritanical Grose and the outwardly prim Jessel (> Religion), yet the former woman shows no charity and the latter no chastity. The two mismatched lovers are murdered by the children, who believe this is the only way Quint and Jessel can remain at the house and be together. Its potential sensationalist thrills smothered by clumsiness of script (cod-historical) and direction (stodgy), this movie – itself nonfantastic – is best watched, if at all, as a curious appendage to The Innocents. [JG]