PictureThis release sees a full frame pan and scan edition of the film on one side of the flipper disc and the alluring beauty of the original anamorphic 2.35:1 image on the other. You don't need me to tell you which version to watch.
Although bathed with a very fine patina of grain, and suffering some very occasional and really only slight print damage - just the odd vertical line down the centre of the screen that lingers after one or two scene changes - The Innocents looks absolutely wonderful for a film that is almost thirty-six years old. Blacks are splendidly solid and consistent - the shadow-play is breathtakingly beautiful, as is the contrast of surrounding gloom around the thin strips of candlelight or flame. Faces can occasionally appear a little too bright, but again, this seems to enhance the surrealism of the black and white imagery without actually being detrimental to the overall image. The disc transfer copes admirably with the simply gorgeous compositions that Clayton and Francis created, exuding a tremendous sense of scale and depth to the huge, and highly detailed interiors of the house, or to the manicured gardens outside. Check out the detail on the shot of Miss Giddens looking out over Flora to the solitary figure of a ghost standing in the reeds over on the other side of the lake. You can plainly see the marvellously captured image of a small waterfall way, way off in the distance. Wonderful shot, and the disc does it justice. Find the biggest screen you can, turn off the lights and sit back and revel in a great transfer.
SoundAlthough furnished with a DD 2.0 stereo mix, there really isn't much in the way of separation to bolster the audio dimension of the film. The effects are largely confined to just the odd opening of a door, the shutters banging in the wind, footsteps and, in one nice moment, a sudden screeching, but, on the whole, there isn't a lot of width to the track.
Dialogue is, however, very clear and strident. In fact, it positively booms, and sounds like it has been topped off with a slight echo. The early sequence in which Miss Giddens is given the job by Michael Redgrave's un-named Uncle sets the tone for what will follow, with voices that sound quite harsh and raucous. But, to be honest, this effect - which carries on throughout the entire film - is probably very appropriate. For a film that is set in, and around, a gothic mansion of vast rooms and halls and the wide gardens and lakeside beyond it, this shouty quality and accompanied echo can be quite authentic. However, I doubt that this effect was completely intended.
The score by Georges Auric comes across well, as do, ironically, the sudden silences that I mentioned - the transition from atmospheric swells and effects to complete noiselessness is beautifully captured by the disc.
Still, I think that a little more care could have been taken with the voices and the use of a more robust stereo image. As it is though, The Innocents sounds very decent indeed.
ExtrasWe get the original theatrical trailer and a few other previews of the “If you liked this film, why not try these” variety. To be honest, it borders on the criminal not to deck out this classic film with commentaries and retrospectives. Participants still live and, if nothing else, there are many filmmakers working today who owe enough of a debt to the technical aspect of The Innocents to have paid their respects with a chat track or a feature. A great opportunity totally squandered.
VerdictA film that fully deserves its status as a classic, The Innocents is technically superb, thematically stimulating and richly rewarding no matter how often you view it. Laced with an atmosphere that creeps into your veins and stays there, Jack Clayton's interpretation of Henry James's famous story is like freezing time for 100 minutes. I can only think of a handful of movies that take the viewer so successfully and resolutely out of reality for their duration - Suspiria, The Evil Dead, Halloween, The Others (all devoutly influenced by The Innocents, I might add) for example - and none that do it with such measured, hypnotic ease.
Beg, borrow or steal it. It doesn't matter which ... just get a copy. Very highly recommended and a true genre milestone that has so often been overlooked by those that weren't employing some of its tricks of the trade for their own movie magic.
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