Tuesday, July 12, 2016

50 Shades of Streetcar, or Thoughts on Marlon Brando in The Nightcomers

The Nightcomers (1971), an erotic psychological thriller and prequel to The Innocents (1961) elaborated on the corrupt relationship between the previous nanny and her lover and the murderous affect it had on the two orphans under her charge.  Screen Legend Marlon Brando is Peter Quint, the handsome roguish gardener while Stephanie Beacham, who you may remember from And Now the Screaming Starts (1973), and Dracula, AD 1972 as Jessica Van Helsing portrays the governess Miss Jessel.  Their illicit love affair is both witnessed and encouraged by the children, who see the two servants as their own personal entertainment or reality show, in the modern parlance that you kids enjoy so much.
The movie starts with a deceptively light-hearted soundtrack and scenic visions of the English countryside to confuse the audience and trick them into supposing this is some costumed comedy of manners complete with footmen and horse and carriages.  But the “unnatural acts” hinted at and alluded to in The Innocents (1961) are soon brought to light and take center stage in The Nightcomers (1971), and the film veers away from the supernatural and into Hitchcock territory.
The controversial themes of sexual abuse, incest, BDSM, rape and murder are made more disturbing with the inclusion of the two orphans, Flora and Miles (actor Verna Harvey as Flora was actually 19 at the time) even though they are a couple years older than the prequel.   Their mature scenes of sexual precocity are still  uncomfortable to watch and gain an extra level of creepiness from a modern perspective.
This is Last Tango in Paris (1972) Brando, not The Godfather (1972) Brando, his performance is athletic and devilishly charming.  His physique is thicker than say, his prime in Streetcar Named Desire (1951), but he still has an unmistakably virile presence and had yet to turn into the bloated parody of himself he portrayed in his final film The Score (2001).  His cruel, sadistic and sociopathic performance as Peter Quint is a memorable highlight, and one of the reasons why Brando remains one of the greatest actors if the 20th Century.
Director Michael Winner would go on to direct The Sentinel (1977) and the scandalous (for the ‘80’s) The Wicked Lady (1983) with Faye Dunaway.  And the Henry James novel would inspire a third adaptation in the BBC TV movie The Turn of The Screw (2009) featuring your Lord and Lady Crawley Dan Stevens and Michelle Dockery. 



my first novel? thanks for asking:) I wrote a 4 book supernatural martial arts series concerning the ongoing feud between a group of kung-fu killer witches in san francsico’s chinatown.