A governess put in charge of two young children begins to see the ghost of her dead predecessor.

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Isobel Elsom ...
Laurinda Barrett ...
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Alexandra Wager ...
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A governess put in charge of two young children begins to see the ghost of her dead predecessor.

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Comedy | Drama | Musical

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20 October 1959 (USA)  »

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1.33 : 1
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Startime: THE TURN OF THE SCREW {TV} (John Frankenheimer, 1959) ***1/2
24 October 2013 | by (Naxxar, Malta) – See all my reviews

Henry James' supernatural (and ambiguous) period novella is among a handful of genuine horror classics; consequently, it has been relentlessly plundered over the years and from myriad countries in both the cinema and TV formats. Jack Clayton's black-and-white take, THE INNOCENTS (1961), is universally recognized as the source's finest rendition; personally, up till now, I was only familiar with it, Dan Curtis' serviceable 1974 TV adaptation and also Michael Winner's intriguing prequel/offshoot THE NIGHTCOMERS (1972). One of the wonders of the Internet is that, through this medium, several renowned productions from TV's golden age (intended for immediate consumption, they were even shot live!) – often boasting the participation of up-and-coming talent behind the camera (here including Sydney Pollack as dialogue director) and established stars in front of it – which would otherwise have been lost to the ages are seeing the light of day, garnering new admirers in the process and sometimes, amazingly, going so far as to rewrite history (or, at least, redress the balance somewhat)! Anyway, this version is certainly no slouch in comparison to the afore-mentioned THE INNOCENTS: apart from the necessary streamlining (in fact, the character of the children's uncle, with whom the governess is enamored, does not appear in the flesh), what it loses in meticulously-crafted artistry and expansive location shooting is gained in editorial dexterity (Frankenheimer never puts a foot wrong in orchestrating the most judicious counterpoint to any given scene or emotion, creating a palpable tension throughout) and, for lack of a better word, the sense of continuity within the performances (obviously akin to stage acting) – with Ingrid Bergman in her small-screen debut, channeling her earlier Gothic success in GASLIGHT (1944), fitting the central part like a glove. The malevolent forces at work, too, are adequately deployed – the little girl being especially creepy but, then, the features of the ghostly woman are never properly seen (though I fear the fault in this case lies with the fuzzy nature of the, presumably, only available print rather than the film itself!). For the record, Eloy de la Iglesia's 1985 Spanish movie remake and the 1989 "Nightmare Classics" entry will follow presently in my ongoing Halloween Challenge…


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