Friday, September 16, 2016

DVD/150: THE NIGHTCOMERS (Michael Winner, 1971) - when Brando met Winner

In 1972, on the heels of THE DEVILS and A CLOCKWORK ORANGE, Michael Winner's THE NIGHTCOMERS restarted the censorship debate for it's scenes of violent sex.  I remember it from the film magazines and the poster trumpeting BRANDO BRUTAL BEAUTIFUL - now, after over 40 years, I have seen it!

It is an unnecessary prequel to Henry James' TURN OF THE SCREW showing the malign effect on orphans Miles and Flora of their governess Miss Jessel's sexual relationship with the gardener Peter Quint.  Michael Hastings' script emphasizes what should be left nuanced.

Winner directs with his sledgehammer style - endless camera zooms, no atmosphere - so one looks for comfort in the performances.

Stephanie Beachum is colourless, Verna Harvey excels as Flora, Thora Hird pulls focus as the housekeeper and Brando wrestles with an Oirish accent rather than being brutal or beautiful however there is one monologue where flashes of brilliance are seen.   

Shelf or charity shop?  Seen it finally... no need to keep it

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