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In Victorian England, the uncle of orphaned niece Flora and nephew Miles hires Miss Giddens as governess to raise the children at his estate with total independence and authority. Soon after her arrival, Miss Giddens comes to believe that the spirits of the former governess Miss Jessel and valet Peter Quint are possessing the children. Miss Giddens decides to help the children to face and exorcise the spirits. Written by
Claudio Carvalho, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
Jack Clayton didn't want the children to be exposed to the darker themes of the story, so they never saw the screenplay in its entirety. The children were given their pages the day before they were to be filmed. See more »
In the scene where Miles is on the horse, he rides with and without a saddle in various shots. See more »
The film begins with a totally black screen and the sound of Flora singing for several seconds; then the 20th Century Fox logo fades in and out. The singing continues for a few seconds before the opening credits begin. As the credits display, we see an anguished Miss Giddens praying on the left side of the screen. Her actions are not explained until the film's climax. See more »
Horror that is the cinematic equivalent of rising damp
Director Jack Clayton's masterpiece is a study of deepest dread. Its horror is the cinematic equivalent of rising damp.
Deborah Kerr accepts a job as the governess of two strange children (Martin Stephens and Pamela Franklin) and becomes convinced that they occupy a world haunted by repressed memories and the restless dead.
Martin Stephens' performance as the unfathomable Miles is extraordinary. The child projects a physical authority rare for his years. His dialog exchanges with Kerr run the gamut from highly amusing to deeply disturbing.
Clayton's greatest achievement is the way he subverts common household settings to the point where they become arenas of fear.
The sound design is chilling, conjuring sudden terror and thrusting us into the complex mechanics of the Kerr character's growing paranoia.
Strikingly shot and lit, the film is a textbook example of grave cinematic suggestion.
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