(UK - 1972)
Directed by Michael Winner. Written by Michael Hastings. Cast: Marlon Brando, Stephanie Beacham, Harry Andrews, Thora Hird, Verna Harvey, Christopher Ellis, Anna Palk. (R, 97 mins)
A prequel before the term was part of the moviegoing lexicon, 1972's THE NIGHTCOMERS details the events that took place prior to those depicted in THE INNOCENTS, the 1961 film based on Henry James' classic 1898 gothic horror novella The Turn of the Screw. In THE INNOCENTS, co-scripted by Truman Capote, Deborah Kerr starred as Miss Giddens, a governess in charge of Miles (Martin Stephens) and Flora (Pamela Franklin), two orphaned young children essentially left on their own at a foreboding estate by their cold-hearted uncle (Michael Redgrave), who became their guardian and has never had any interest in raising them. The estate is haunted by the ghosts of their previous governess, Miss Jessel (Clytie Jessop) and groundskeeper Peter Quint (Peter Wyngarde), and Miss Giddens comes to believe the ghosts are attempting to possess the children. Much changed as far as what could be shown in movies in the decade since THE INNOCENTS, and THE NIGHTCOMERS, directed by Michael Winner (THE MECHANIC, DEATH WISH) and just released on Blu-ray by Kino-Lorber (because physical media is dead) takes full advantage of it. It delves with little restraint into the sordid backstory of Quint and Miss Jessel, buoyed by ability to explicitly depict things that could barely be hinted at in 1961, and given Winner's tendency to revel in being a provocateur, that really seems to be the only reason for THE NIGHTCOMERS' existence.
MISSOURI BREAKS histrionics), who seems to do little but clown around and indulge in drunken philosophical blather. This angers killjoy Mrs. Grose but falls right in line with Marlon Brando's love of tossing the script, ad-libbing, and doing whatever the hell he feels like doing while the cameras are rolling.
|Marlon Brando and Michael Winner on the set of THE NIGHTCOMERS|
THE ISLAND OF DR. MOREAU. Though a few prominent critics were fond of it, THE NIGHTCOMERS was a box office flop upon its release by Avco Embassy in February 1972. It did, however, mark the last film in Brando's free-falling "lost years" phase that dated back to the mid-1960s, as THE GODFATHER would be in theaters a month later, giving the notoriously difficult actor a triumphant comeback for the ages and a second Oscar.