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SPECIFICATIONS
  • 2.35:1 Widescreen
  • English PCM Mono
  • English subtitles
  • 1 Disc
FEATURES
  • Audio commentary featuring cultural historian Christopher Frayling
  • New interview with cinematographer John Bailey on director of photography Freddie Francis and the look of the film
  • Archival interviews with editor James Clark, Francis, and script supervisor Pamela Francis
  • Trailer

The Innocents

Blu-ray
Reviewed by: Chris Galloway

Directed By: Jack Clayton
Starring: Deborah Kerr, Megs Jenkins, Michael Redgrave, Peter Wyngarde, Martin Stephens, Pamela Franklin
1961 | 100 Minutes | Licensor: 20th Century Fox

Release Information
Blu-ray | MSRP: $39.95 | Series: The Criterion Collection | Edition: #727
Sony Pictures Home Entertainment

Release Date: September 23, 2014
Review Date: September 21, 2014

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SYNOPSIS

This genuinely frightening, exquisitely made supernatural gothic stars Deborah Kerr as an emotionally fragile governess who comes to suspect that there is something very, very wrong with her precocious new charges. A psychosexually intensified adaptation of Henry James's classic The Turn of the Screw, cowritten by Truman Capote and directed by Jack Clayton, The Innocents is a triumph of narrative economy and technical expressiveness, from its chilling sound design to the stygian depths of its widescreen cinematography by Freddie Francis.

Forum members rate this film 9/10

 

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PICTURE

Jack Clayton’s atmospheric horror film The Innocents receives a Criterion Blu-ray, presenting the film in its original aspect ratio of about 2.40:1 on a dual-layer disc. The new 1080p/24hz high-definition transfer is taken from a new 4k scan done by Fox.

Clayton had originally wanted to use the Academy ratio of about 1.37:1 when filming began but Fox had a policy at the time that all of their films had to use their Cinemascope anamorphic process. Somewhat reluctant at first Clayton and his director of photography, Freddie Francis, came up with a process to sort of fake an Academy ratio while still using the widescreen ratio Fox required. This involved heavy lighting directed at everything within the center of the frame (stories from the supplements indicate how hot this would get) and placing filters on the edges of the lens that would black out the image on the edges of the screen, closing in the frame (as the two became more comfortable with the widescreen ratio as filming progressed they didn’t become as dependent on this technique). This lends the film a very distinct look and also—with the mix of the type of lens used—creates some noticeable issues throughout the frame. When the edges of the frame are blacked out objects on the edge can become blurry, while certain sections of the frame can look to be distorted thanks to the lens of the camera. The distortion causes objects and people to look thinner at the edges and a bit “wider” or at least more “portly” in the center of the frame. I only note this because it just needed to be pointed out these are not issues with the transfer itself but are instead artifacts created during actual filming.

The actual digital transfer itself is fabulous and I can’t say a single bad thing about it. Other than where the elements can come off a bit fuzzy sharpness is otherwise superb, textures are nicely delivered, and the sense of depth is excellent. Long shots, particularly those of the grounds of the house, are rich with detail. Once shot involving a ghostly figure in the reeds is even more chilling thanks to the enhanced level of detail over the previous home video releases I’ve seen.

Contrast and tonal shifts look fine, but because of the intense lighting in certain scenes some objects can look a little blown out or at least intensely white, but this seems to be true to the source and intended look. Damage isn’t too much of an issue, not even during some of the more complicated montage and superimposed sequences. Grain is incredibly fine but present, and it looks natural. In all it’s a remarkable looking presentation, easily the best yet for the film.

10/10

All Blu-ray screen captures come from the source disc and have been shrunk from 1920x1080 to 900x506 and slightly compressed to conserve space. While they are not exact representations they should offer a general idea of overall video quality.

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AUDIO

Delivered in linear PCM 1.0 mono, the film’s soundtrack has aged rather well. Music can sound a little rough when it tries to reach certain highs, and the film’s electronic, almost Theremin-like effects can come off a bit dated and weak. But dialogue is clear and distinct with some minor range, while the clean-up job has removed any instance of damage.

7/10

SUPPLEMENTS

Criterion ports a couple of the supplements BFI created for the release of the film, though leaves off the short films that were found there. Christopher Frayling’s 2006 audio commentary has made it over and it’s a fairly packed one. Frayling talks about the film’s production and gets into a great amount of technical detail on how the film’s look was pulled off. He adds in some great little factoids I knew nothing about, particularly one about how Cary Grant was originally considered for the part of the uncle but was dropped when he demanded his character would have to show up at the end so he left more of an impression on the audience. He talks about the novel, The Turn of the Screw and Truman Capote’s contributions to the script, which he seems particularly thrilled with, while going into details about the characters, possible motivations, and the techniques used throughout to cause audiences to question whether what they’re seeing is supposed to be actually happening. He also addresses criticisms brought against the film, talks about some the studio’s fears about certain aspects of the film, talks about some deleted sequences (like another scene involving the uncle), and just gives a general overview on how the film’s atmosphere is created. It’s a very scholarly track but a nonetheless entertaining one. I’m very happy Criterion has ported it over.

Also from the BFI edition is Frayling’s introduction to the film. The 26-minute segment appears to have been filmed on the location used for the film and overall it sort of feels like a generalization of his commentary, though focuses a little more on the technical aspects of the film and the look captured by Francis and Clayton, even breaking down how a few scenes were done.

Criterion records a new interview with cinematographer John Bailey, who talks specifically about Freddie Francis’ career and then offers more technically detailed information about the use of filters and lighting in the film, as well as more information on Fox’s Cinemascope process, the issues that arise because of it, and even breaks down how certain lighting effects were pulled off, particularly a late scene in the movie where Kerr travels the dark passages of the house by candlelight. Frayling touches on this material in his two supplements but Bailey nicely expands on them, giving some great examples and explanations so we can better visualize how these tricks were pulled off.

Between Horror, Fear, and Beauty is 14-minute compilation of interviews recorded in 2006, I assume by BFI yet I don’t recall them being on their releases. At any rate it features interviews with director of photography Freddie Francis, Editor Jim Clark, and script supervisor Pamela Mann Francis. The three share stories from the set and go further into detail about Capote’s contributions, but it is yet another technically heavy feature, with Clark and Francis talking about certain slow motions shots, the complicated lighting, and the creation of some of the montage sequences.

The disc then closes with the film’s theatrical trailer while the included insert features an essay by Maitland McDonagh, who goes into more detail about Clayton and his work, as well as the film’s characters and various psychological themes within the film.

Again it doesn’t port over the short film from the BFI release but the Criterion edition offers a fairly satisfying batch of supplements to their edition, with a lot of focus on how the film’s visuals were created.

8/10

CLOSING

Porting over the scholarly material from the BFI edition while adding on some new material focusing primarily on the technical aspects of the film Criterion offers a nicely rounded out edition for the film, featuring a rather stunning looking transfer. It comes with a very high recommendation.


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