Everyone remembers the usual Hammer Horror set of films, all the great Peter Cushing and Christopher Lee, the (still) brilliant Edgar Allan Poe stories and the Draculas. I’d never heard of this one, until I spotted a Hammer box set on Amazon for a fiver and due to a fit of work-inspired depression snapped it up; retail therapy is quite effective. Naturally everyone else had seen it already.
My god this is a weird little film. The story is shockingly, about a Nanny played by Bette Davis. We’re introduced to the sublimely creepy lady through the lens of her charge, a young boy who has just spent a period of time away at boarding school, primarily for his own mental health. He’d been sent there after he stopped eating or sleeping because he thought his Nanny was trying to kill him. He’s delightfully direct about his feelings about the lady, extracting promises that she won’t come into the bathroom when he’s bathing and refusing to eat her cooking.
The mother is hysterical and totally dependent on her old Nanny; the father works away (as a Queen’s Messenger). The sense of isolation and danger is profound for the lad. It helps (perhaps unintentionally) that most of the adult roles are rather mannered. It makes his chirpiness and honesty as a character all the more appealing. The girl who plays his younger sister is flashbacks is also quite affecting. The more so as we find out how she died…
I won’t spoil the ending, which is dramatic, downbeat and filled with layers of pathos completely absent from modern cinema. It’s a great little film, quite different from Hammer’s usual canon and style. Creepy, disturbing and the kids and Nanny are very nicely performed. I suppose I should mention that it’s in black and white, but if this bothers you then there’s no point talking to you about films anyway. Enjoy!
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