Jack Clayton – The Pumpkin Eater (1964)

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Synopsis:
Film screenwriter Jake Armitage and his wife Jo Armitage live in London with six of Jo’s eight children, with the two eldest boys at boarding school. The children are spread over Jo’s three marriages, with only the youngest being Jake’s biological child, although he treats them all as his own. Jo left her second husband Giles after meeting Giles’ friend Jake, the two who were immediately attracted to each other. Their upper middle class life is much different than Giles and Jo’s, who lived in a barn in the English countryside. But Jo is ruminating about her strained marriage to Jake, with issues on both sides. Jo suspects Jake of chronic infidelity, she only confronting him with her suspicions whenever evidence presents itself. And Jo’s psychiatrist believes that Jo uses childbirth as a rationale for sex, which he believes she finds vulgar. These issues in combination have placed Jo in a fragile mental state. They both state that they love the other, but neither really seems to like … Continue reading

Jack Clayton – The Innocents (1961)

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Quote:
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’s 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? Continue reading