The Nightcomers dir. Michael Winner, starring Marlon Brando, Stephanie Beacham, Thora Hird
In a way I'm not sure that there's much more I need to to do in this review than list the members of this dream-team cast. If you're of a certain disposition the collision of the worlds of Marlon Brando and Thora Hird is almost irresistable. And Michael Winner is attempting wrangle this remarkable hotch-potch. I'm not sure Michael Winner is a bad director; a bit meat-and-potatoes certainly, lacking a certain zest. But he films the story (a bit stodgily)and his films always look beautiful and that's certainly the case here; the film has tremendous visual atmosphere, the cameras constantly poking their way through silhouetted trees to brooding sunsets, while thick blue curlicues of mist rise from the verdant earth. All that sort of stuff. But a director who allows Marlon Brando to improvise a monologue about his dad selling a horse to the gypsies in a hokey Irish accent, to camera, which takes up fully five minutes of screen-time and advances the plot nary a jot, is clearly, shall we say, in thrall to his leading man.
When really he should be in thrall to the reliably busty Steph Beacham who is able able to portray a governess in the nursery and Marlon's stress-ball in the bedroom with equal facility. I'd like to further rhapsodise on Ms. Beacham's impressive bosoms, but each time they are unveiled Marlon's great fat hands are right in there, sqeezing away like half lemons on a juicer. It's like door-step robbery: she leaves a couple of milky ones out and she's got blue tits for weeks!
Sorry. I'm so sorry.
The story: it's a prequel to Henry James'"The turn of the screw".
A pair of orphaned children are left in the care of a house-keeper,a governess and Peter Quint, who was once a valet but now appears to be a gardener cum household tramp. It's difficult to believe that the tousle-haired fatty was ever a valet, but it's harder to believe that a man with the sexual allure of the one-armed dish-washer from "Robin's Nest" could have la Beacham rolling and panting and submitting to clothes-line bondage.
The children, under Quint's spell rather more than Mike Winner's, start to immitate the pair's kinky antics and things start to go very very wrong with the introduction of a few archery lessons.
The children, incidentally, grate throughout; the girl has the carbolic-scrubbed dullness of a grown woman playing a child, while the boy has the sort of full throated over-projection latterly seen in "Hammer House of Horror's Growing Pains".* Though separated by a decade there is an eery resemblance between these two twin pillars of bed-wetting poshness. As a consequence the children's artless aping of Quint's hog-tying look like just that; harmless children's games, utterly denuded of any sinister quality. This beyond anything else is the film's great failing. At the story's closure, when another governess turns up at the gate, and as the real story is about to begin, we don't care. We're glad to see the back of them. Precocious little shits.
*this is an excellent reference. Everybody has seen "Growing Pains" and everybody knows exactly what I'm talking about.