When The Nightcomers was first released back in 1971, I remember Michael Winner’s chiller caused a bit of a media storm because of for what was then graphic and violent sex scenes between Marlon Brando and Stefhanie Beacham. Being 13 years old at the time and a mass of raging hormones it was little wonder that I can still remember the moaning of people like that dreadful guardian of the countries morals Mary Whitehouse in the newspapers, especially when accompanied by photos of Stefhanie Beacham’s heaving bosom. She didn’t like Dr Who or Alice Cooper much either.
Looking just a touch too young to blag my way past the commissionaire at the local Odeon I never did get to see the movie at the cinema and as it’s not a film that has been shown on TV that often I was delighted to hear that Network were going to reissue it on Blu ray.
Essentially The Nightcomers is a prequel to Henry James’ The Turn of the Screw (1898) which was memorably filmed by Jack Clayton as The Innocents (1961) starring Deborah Kerr and featuring the amazingly atmospheric monochrome cinematography of Freddie Francis.
Setting up the events that lead to the appointment of Miss Giddings as governess to the creepy Miles and Flora in James’ novella we find their uncle (Harry Andrews) devolving any responsibility for the recently orphaned kids to Mrs Grose (Thora Hird) the housekeeper, before leaving for London. 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 conducting a torrid sadomasochistic affair with Jessel. Now Miles being a right little creep spies on their lovemaking, attempts to recreate what he sees with his sister and this does not go down too well with Mrs Grose. With Quint and Jessel facing dismissal the kids act on Quint’s assertion that ‘if you love someone you want to kill them’
Now Michael Winner does not have a reputation for subtlety and to be frank he made some real stinkers, however The Nightcomers is pretty far from Bullesye or The Wicked Lady. Brando is menacing, the sex is brutal and the kids are horribly disturbing, Thora Hird proves that she is every bit as good a dramatic actress as she was a comedienne and Stefhanie Beacham is smoulderingly sexy as Miss Jessel.
The film is beautifully photographed in and around the Tudor manor house of Sawston Hall in Cambridgeshire and this is really apparent in the High Definition transfer to the Blu-Ray Disc,
There are a couple of liberties taken with James and Brando’s ‘Oirish’ accent grates a little, but The Nightcomers is definitely worth investigating. I give it a 555/666
The Nightcomers is released on Blu Ray and DVD on 23 February by Network as part of the British Film collection price £14.99 Blu Ray £9.99 DVD
Blu Ray extras:
Recommended further viewing: The Innocents (1961) One of the scariest ghost movies I have ever seen. Deborah Kerr is Miss Giddens the governess sent to look after Miles and Flora who is haunted by the ghosts of Jessel and Quint. Cinematographer Freddie Francis went on to direct several horror movies including: The Evil of Frankenstein (1964), Dracula has Risen from the Grave (1968) and Tales from the Crypt (1972)