The Innocents
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The following FAQ entries may contain spoilers. Only the biggest ones (if any) will be covered with spoiler tags. Spoiler tags are used sparingly in order to make the page more readable.

For detailed information about the amounts and types of (a) sex and nudity, (b) violence and gore, (c) profanity, (d) alcohol, drugs and smoking, and (e) frightening and intense scenes in this movie, consult the IMDb Parents Guide for this movie. The Parents Guide for The Innocents can be found here.

When Miss Giddens (Deborah Kerr) is hired to be governess to two orphaned children—eight-year-old Flora (Pamela Franklin) and ten-year-old Miles (Martin Stephens)—at Bry, the country estate of their wealthy uncle (Michael Redgrave) who much prefers his bachelor lifestyle in London and who gives Miss Giddens full authority over every aspect of the children's lives, she is instantly charmed by the little girl and boy until their quirky behaviors and several encounters with "spirits" convince her that former governess Miss Jessel (Clytie Jessop) and valet Peter Quint (Peter Wyngarde) are possessing the children. With the help of the housekeeper, Mrs Grose (Megs Jenkins), she sets out to secure the children's salvation by wresting them from their power.

The film is based on Trinidad-born playwright William Archibald's 1950 stageplay, "The Innocents", which Archibald based on "The Turn of the Screw", a novella written by American-born (later British) writer Henry James and first published in serial format in Collier's Weekly magazine (January 27 April 16, 1898). The screenplay was written by Archibald and American novelist and playwright Truman Capote.

The phrase "the turn of the screw" comes from the prologue of the novella. In the prologue, guests are gathered at an English country house, telling ghost stories. One guest relates a ghost story involving a child, and another guest, a man named Douglas says, "a ghost story involving one child would illicit one turn of the screw, what about two children?" Douglas then hands over an old manuscript given to him as a child by his governess, who was previously the same governess at Bly.

No particular year is given, but the setting is during Victorian England (late 19th century).

What shall I sing to my lord from my window? 
What shall I sing, for my lord will not stay? 
What shall I sing, for my lord will not listen? 
Where shall I go, for my lord is away? 
Whom shall I love when the moon is arisen? 
Gone is my lord, and the grave is his prison. 
What shall I say when my lord comes a-calling? 
What shall I say when he knocks on my door? 
What shall I say when his feet enter softly, 
Leaving the marks of his grave on my floor? 
Enter my lord, come from your prison. 
Come from your grave, for the moon is arisen
It appears to have been written by William Archibald for his stageplay. The poem is not in the novella.

With Flora and Mrs Grose on their way to London, Miss Giddens turns her attention to Miles. At tea, she attempts to talk with him, but Miles replies by being evasive and glib as usual until she asks him why he was sent home from school. Miles admits that he was sent home bacause he was frightening the other boys with violence and vulgar language. When Miss Giddens presses him further as to who taught him this language and behavior, Miles turns on her, calling her a "hussy", laughing maniacally and accusing her of asking all these questions in order to prove to herself that she isn't insane. In the window behind him, Peter Quint's face can be seen laughing along with Miles. Miles then runs outside, and Miss Giddens follows, telling him that all he has to do is to "say his name." She catches up with Miles when he trips on the stairs, then cradles him in her arms, asking him repeatedly to "say his name". Suddenly, Quint appears on the garden wall. Miss Giddens turns Miles to face him and tells him that "he's here". Miles screams, "Where...where?", then collapses on the ground. Miss Giddens again cradles him in her arms, kissing his forehead, assuring him that he is free, until she realizes that he is actually dead. In the final scene, she pulls him to her and kisses him full on the lips.

The apparent reason is a heart attack. In the original novella, Miss Giddens says, "We were alone with the quiet day, and his little heart, dispossessed, had stopped."

The ambiguous nature of the story is part of what makes this film so compelling to many viewers. There appears to be two conflicting interpretations. Some viewers accept the premise that there is a supernatural explanation and that Miss Giddens was actually trying to save the children, whether or not the innocent children were even aware of the haunting. Other viewers maintain that Miss Giddens was not stable and that her mental condition slowly disintegrates, leading her to create paranoid delusions that bear no relation to reality.

Henry James' Turn of the Screw is in public domain and may be downloaded from sites such as The Gutenberg Project.

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