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
The cinematography is so admired, aspects of it were imitated decades later in Nine Inch Nails' video for The Perfect Drug, most notably the man on the tower scene. See more »
Deborah Kerr's hair has been visibly 'teased' and lacquered with hairspray in an early 1960s hairstyle even though the film is set in the 1860s. See more »
The children... have they had a governess before?
Yes, unfortunately. Not that there was anything wrong with Miss Jessel. She was an excellent governess and a most respectable woman. The children quite liked her especially little Flora. Oh, which reminds me: Be careful not to broach that subject to Flora unless she broaches it to you first which I doubt will happen. She was so fond of Miss Jessel and it did come as an appalling shock.
I'm not certain that I understand you, sir.
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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 »
Based on the novella "The Turn of the Screw" by Henry James, a young governess (Deborah Kerr) for two children becomes convinced that the house and grounds are haunted.
As outsiders looking in as voyeurs, we are left wondering about what the governess sees: are the children possessed? Or perhaps they have become friends with ghosts? Or is the governess simply paranoid? The film keeps us guessing, which only adds to its creepiness.
This title has the distinction of featuring the debut of Pamela Franklin, here playing the child Flora, who would later be memorable in "The Legend of Hell House". She expertly presents herself as innocent (hence the title) while saying creepy lines such as, "Oh, look, a lovely spider! And it's eating a butterfly." Did this inspire Jack Hill's "Spider Baby"?
The film has received wide critical acclaim for its psychological thrills and also its technological achievements (cinematographer Freddie Francis made the lightning his number one focus, and also shot the film in layers, giving it a deeper look than most movies). No less than Martin Scorsese has listed it among the greatest horror films ever made.
Freddie Francis is in top form here, coming off his Oscar win for "Sons and Lovers" (1960). His mark on the horror genre would only increase in the following years, as he took the director's chair for Amicus and Hammer numerous times in the 60s and 70s.
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