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The Nightcomers (Blu-ray Details)

Unique ID Code: 0000167332
Added by: Stuart McLean
Added on: 23/2/2015 07:51
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    Review for The Nightcomers

    7 / 10

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    Fifty Shades of Grey? Pah. That stuff’s for wimps. Back in the day we had far more disturbing and graphic material posturing as historic drama or high literature related art – like ‘The Nightcomers’.

    You’d be hard pressed to categorise ‘The Nightcomers’ actually. Directed by a young Michael Winner and pairing Hollywood legend Marlon Brando with the then all but unknown (but beautiful) Stephanie Beacham and then throwing in Thora Hird and a couple of the sorts of kids who would do Narnia type dramas on the BBC, and filming the majority of it on location in Lincolnshire, it sounds a bit unlikely.

    Then to have the tenacity to write a so-called prequel to Henry James ‘The Turn of the Screw’ featuring a sado-masochistic relationship between an Irish gardener and an educated nanny, and let the kids watch and have a go themselves – the whole thing starts to seem utterly unlikely. But there you have it. It’s true. And it’s called ‘The Nightcomers’.

    Even if it sounds utterly unlikely in paper, it’s actually rather good. True; Brando’s Irish accent is a fair match for Dick Van Dyke’s cockney one in ‘Mary Poppins’ but apart from that everyone in does a good job. In fact, Brando was nominated for a BAFTA for his performance of the groundsman, Quint, which is peculiarly bewitching. You have to hand it to the man – he certainly threw himself into the role.

    Stephanie Beacham provides the glamour as well as the class and does an exceptionally good job as a teacher/nanny, Miss Jessel, who is caring for two orphaned children, Flora and Miles played by Verna Harvey & Christopher Ellis,who are staying at their uncle’s estate in Cambridge. She is very prim and proper and meets with the approval of the uncle (played by Harry Andrews) and the rather prudish house-maid, the unfortunately named Mrs. Grose, played by Thora Hird. However, she also enjoys a sado-masochistic relationship with the ruffian Quint and engages in some relatively explicit on-screen sex in what I am guessing is an uncut version of the film.

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    If the trailer is an indication is it was very much marketed as a lurid horror film although it’s somewhat deeper than the average Hammer or Amicus film.
    In fact – take a look at it if you haven’t seen it. It’ll give you a slightly salacious idea of what to expect.


    Brando’s Quint is a strange but well-developed character. An Irish chancer who takes pleasure where he can find it, he completely dominates Miss Jessel who can scarcely hide her distaste of him during daylight hours. Whilst she cannot resist his sexual advances, she seems also to dislike him as part of an inferior class.

    In the meantime, his childish ways endear him to the children who are fascinated with his endless if surreal knowledge of nature (he gives a frog a cigarette which makes it explode for example, delighting Miles but upsetting Flora) and they soon start to believe in his strange cod philosophy which includes the idea that love and hate are virtually the same thing.

    Miss Grose disapproves and is apoplectic when whe discovers Quint sending young Miles into the air strapped to a box kite. The children soon decide that she is the enemy.

    As the film develops, and the children are told by Quint that their parents have been killed in a crash, things start to go wrong. Miles has been watching the strange sado-masochistic rituals of Quint and Miss Jessel and convinces Flora to try some out with him.

    It’s not long before Miles very singular view of the world, shaped entirely by Quint, is interpreted without filters and end in horror and tragedy (which I won’t spoil here).

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    The film clearly explores some dark subject matter in a way which would be unlikely today. Although there is never any evidence that the children are deriving any pleasure from copying Quint and Miss Jessel’s behavior, it is nonetheless dipping into taboo territory and makes for uneasy watching. The whole thing feels like ‘The Railway Children’ gone wrong and perhaps that is its most disturbing aspect.

    Winner’s direction is workmanlike if unremarkable although the excellent transfer and picture quality does make some of the exteriors look excellent – a chance to see the film a bit closer to the intended cinematic feel.

    The only extras are a ‘teaser’ trailer and the standard movie trailer, both which play up Brando, the sex and the horror aspects beyond anything else.

    I know that a previous DVD edition of the film, whilst cutting some of the steamier scenes, did include a commentary by Winner and it would have been nice if that had been licenced too although you can’t have everything.

    If you know and like the movie then this edition is well worth picking up.

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