THE NIGHTCOMERS (1972)
Article 2117 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 1-1-2007
Posting Date: 5-30-2007
Directed by Michael Winner
Featuring Marlon Brando, Stephanie Beacham, Thora Hird
A gardener has a bad influence on two children who have been left in the care of a governess and a housekeeper after their parents have died.
I’m not particularly keen on the idea of a prequel to “The Turn of the Screw”; I always feel that if Henry James wasn’t explicit about the full story of Quint and the previous governess, there was a reason. Still, someone decided to go ahead with the project, and here I am covering it. I had to think about this one a bit after it was over; despite the fact that Brando gives an excellent performance as Quint, I didn’t quite feel satisfied. Part of my problem is that the movie doesn’t go back far enough; the story begins after the death of the parents and with Quint already having a hold on one of the two children. I would have liked to have seen the children with the parents before Quint arrives on the scene to better appreciate the change they undergo; things are pretty far enough along when the story starts. This should have been possible; as it is, the script wastes a lot of time retreading the same themes and covering the same ground (for example, the theme of hate and love being two sides of the same coin is constantly and annoyingly resurrected). I suspect that the story was devised to give Brando as much screen time as possible. Then there’s the question as to whether this is strictly a horror movie at all, or just a dark drama; without the ghost theme to play with, one can only rely on the sense of madness to add the necessary genre touches. Perhaps the biggest impression I got from this movie is that the real villain of the piece is the Master of the House, whose refusal to take any real hand in the rearing of the children is probably the primary reason they were left in irresponsible hands.