Nightcomers, The (1971)

The Nightcomers (1971), produced and directed by Michael Winner.

What happened before the new governess arrived in The Turn of the Screw? Or, if you prefer the film version, in The Innocents (1961). The gardener and former governess are dead and we are given to believe that they had a corrupting effect on the children, who saw things they shouldn't have. Exactly what were these people up to?

Now we can see the whole sordid truth. Irish rogue Quint had a taste for bondage and degradation and posh Miss Jessel just couldn't tell him "no". The children are indeed watching and have to try it for themselves. Thankfully, with clothes on and no actual sex that we know of. It's all rather perverse. The director cleared it with the British censor first, but it turned out that all the censor wanted was to meet Marlon Brando.

Stephanie Beacham provides buxom, submissive expanses of skin. Brando was said to be pretty rough in the sex scenes, doing what he wanted, which was quite a bit. He must have been in a Last Tango mood around then. As porn it is both soft and raw, if that makes any sense.

How does it all work as a film? More as an oddity than as a valuable work in itself. In recent conversation we wondered if The Night of the Following Day (1968) weren't Brando's most obscure film. This one ought to be in the running.

Jerry Fielding's classical score is lovely but much too grand for this project. I hear "Down By Sally Gardens"; if I had the soundtrack I'd listen for other folk themes.

Available on DVD. The director provides a tell-all commentary track: