TITLE: The Nightcomers
YEAR RELEASED: 1971
DIRECTOR: Michael Winner
CAST: Marlon Brando, Stephanie Beacham, Thora Hird, Harry Andrews, Verna Harvey, Christopher Ellis
REVIEW BY SIMON BALL
In a nutshell Michael Winner’s The Nightcomers is a prequel to Henry James’ The Turn of the Screw (1898) memorably filmed in 1961 by Jack Clayton as The Innocents with Deborah Kerr as Miss Giddings and featuring amazingly atmospheric monochrome cinematography of Freddie Francis.
Winner set up the events that lead to the appointment of Miss Giddings as governess to creepy kids Miles and Flora.
We find their respectable uncle (Harry Andrews) devolving any responsibility for the recently orphaned kids to Mrs Grose (a fine dramatic performance from Thora Hird) the housekeeper, before he leaves for London as a respectable Victorian gent should do. Aside from Mrs Grose the household consists of Peter Quint (Brando) the valet turned gardener and Miss Jessel (Beacham) their nanny.
Miles (Christopher Ellis) and Flora (Verna Harvey) are totally in the thrall of Quint who teaches them all kinds of unsuitable stuff.
Quint is also having a torrid sadomasochistic affair with Jessel and Miles being a right little creep likes to spy on their lovemaking and attempts to recreate what he sees with his sister.
Naturally this does not go down too well with Mrs Grose who threatens to report Quint and Jessel to the children’s uncle.
With Quint and Jessel facing the sack the kids decide to act on Quint’s assertion that ‘if you love someone you want to kill them’
When it was first released The Nightcomers caused a media storm because of what was for 1971, the graphic and violent sex scenes between Marlon Brando and Stephanie Beacham.
Naturally the finger wagging of moral guardians like Mary Whitehouse in the newspapers just stoked up the publicity for the movie, especially when accompanied by photos of Stefanie Beacham’s heaving bosom.
The film is beautifully photographed in and around the Tudor manor house of Sawston Hall in Cambridgeshire.
Brando is menacing, the sex is brutal, the kids are horribly disturbing and Stephanie Beacham is smoulderingly sexy as Miss Jessel.
There are a couple of liberties taken with James’ text and Brando’s ‘Oirish’ accent grates a little, but The Nightcomers is definitely worth investigating.