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Nightcomers, The (1971, Marlon Brando, Stephanie Beacham)



Marlon Brando, Stephanie Beacham and Thora Hird feature in Michael Winner’s pointless prequel to Henry James’ ‘The Turn Of The Screw’. Occasionally lurid but generally lame attempt at psychodrama in which two horrible kids commit a double murder.

There may be many who thought Marlon Brando would never ask Thora Hird if she wished to see him naked. Thanks to Michael Winner’s misguided period horror he gets the chance but there’s precious little of value here, and the most horrific thing is Brando’s cod-Oirish accent.

The first of many problems is the premise. James’ play tells of a lonely brother and sister (here played by Ellis and Harvey) haunted by their dead governess and gamekeeper. The Nightcomers explains how they came to die but offers no insight into the original story, and fails to stand alone.

Effectively the children’s only friend, Brando is the Mellors-esque Quint, and it turns out he’s enjoying an S&M; flavoured affair with governess Miss Jessel (Beacham.) A Whistle Down The Wind-style misunderstanding convinces the kids that the adults need to be killed and the film ends where The Screw begins.

Climbing up trees and blowing up toads, Brando is bad but charismatic. However Beacham looks embarrassed, the children are embarrassing and only housekeeper Thora Hird exhibits much energy. The plot is a succession of improbabilities and the climax too daft for words.

Released in the same year as Last Tango in Paris, were it not for Brando’s presence this would have been consigned directly to the great video vault in the sky, where it belongs.

Though ‘The Turn of the Screw‘ has been filmed many times, the definitive version is widely regarded as 1961’s The Innocents.

Marlon Brando as Peter Quint
Stephanie Beacham as Miss Jessel
Thora Hird as Mrs. Grose
Harry Andrews as Master of the House
Verna Harvey as Flora
Christopher Ellis as Miles
Anna Palk as New Governess

production info
Writer: Michael Hastings
Producers: Elliot Kastner, Michael Winner
Photographer: Robert Paynter
Composer: Jerry Fielding
Director: Michael Winner

UK / 96 minutes / 1971