In Victorian England, the uncle (Sir Michael Redgrave) of orphaned niece Flora (Pamela Franklin) and nephew Miles (Martin Stephens) hires Miss Giddens (Deborah Kerr) 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 (Clytie Jessop) and valet Peter Quint (Peter Wyngarde) 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
In an article in USA Today (August 22, 2011), Guillermo del Toro chose this as one of his six favorite "fright flicks". See more »
At the beginning of the film, when The Uncle walks from behind his desk over to the fireplace in his office, a moving shadow of the boom microphone is visible upper left of the frame. See more »
[referring to Miss Jessel]
Flora saw her, too.
Did she tell you so?
No, of course not. She lied to me. Well, it amounted to a lie.
Oh, now, miss, I've never known either of the children to tell lies. Why would they?
Why? Because they are both playing, or being made to play some monstrous game. I can't pretend to understand what its purpose is. I only know that it is happening. Something secretive and whispery and indecent. I tell you, believe me, the children are in dreadful peril.
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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 »
Miss Giddens (Deborah Kerr) is hired to be the governess to two children on a country estate. She comes to believe the place and the children are haunted by the spirits of their previous governess and her brutish lover. No one else believes her so she tries to get rid of the ghosts herself.
The first screen adaptation of Henry James's "The Turn of the Screw, " a psychological ghost story that leaves unanswered the question of whether the ghosts are real or imagined. This sort of story is pretty common in movies of the last 20 years but was much less so in 1898 or even 1961. Don't let the ambiguity put you off that there are no scares here. This is a movie full of spooky moments, shadowy figures, startling reflections, eerie voices. It's beautifully photographed by Freddie Francis. The music and sound effects add to the feeling of unease. Deborah Kerr gives a nail-biting performance as the neurotic, repressed Miss Giddens. The child actors, Pamela Franklin and Martin Stephens, are sufficiently precocious and weird to keep you off balance as to the truth behind their possession. Stephens was the leader of the kids in Village of the Damned. Franklin would go on to appear in such '70s greats as And Soon the Darkness and The Legend of Hell House. Megs Jenkins is good as the kindly housekeeper. Peter Wyngarde is creepy as the menacing Quint.
The pace is slow, which will turn off impatient viewers, and the scares are subtle and not as visceral as most modern horror fans seem to enjoy. But if you like thoughtful horror films then this is one you'll want to see. Fans of the suggestive classics Val Lewton produced in the '40s should also check this out.
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