30 October 2014

The Innocents (1961)
100 min.
Directed by Jack Clayton.
With Deborah Kerr, Pamela Franklin, Peter Wyngarde, Megs Jenkins, Martin Stephens, Michael Redgrave, Clytie Jessop, Isla Cameron.
Based on Henry James' novella The Turn of the Screw published in 1898, this 1961 adaptation from director Jack Clayton is a consummate construction and one of the best of the genre.

It floats on a dark, moody cloud which seems entirely of its own making. The way a good ghost movie should.

The story: well-meaning governess Miss Giddens (Kerr) arrives to look after her new wards: young Miles (Stephens) and sweet Flora (Franklin).

But she soon finds all is not as it seems.

Miles is sent home from his boarding school for questionable behavior...strange, ghostly apparitions begin to appear...the children are odd, detached...indeed, the house itself seems to exert an odd control over the little ones...

And, if the past is any guide to the future, what exactly happened to the previous governess?

Certainly one of the most reliable - and underrated - actresses of the 2nd half of the 20th century, Kerr is first rate throughout as the bewildered & tortured Giddens.

Meanwhile, Stephens and Franklin are perfectly cast as Giddens' creepy wards.

Franklin, in particular, is one of those rarest of creatures: an actress who shines in both mainstream film (1969's exemplary The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie) as well as in the horror genre (the gothic shocker Legend of Hell House and the titillating cult flick Satan's School for Girls - both 1973).

There have been numerous film adaptations of Turn of the Screw - Dan Curtis' 1974 TV version comes to mind - but this 1961 version stands the test of time and remains the definitive telling.

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