This excellent translation of Henry James’ Turn of the Screw to the big screen finally arrives on DVD. In a harrowing performance Deborah Kerr plays the Governess (Miss Giddens) who takes charge of two children in an estate with a checkered past. Gradually she learns that her predecessor and a male valet met a bad end, likely due to their own behavior.
Hearing voices and seeing glimpses of a leering sickly eyed couple, a permeating sense of dread covers the film. Offering not the safety of an Old Dark House with chintzy cobwebs and a layer of dust, Freddie Francis’ excellent cinematography encompasses a well kept, sprawling mansion whose sheer size and isolation provide the needed ingredients for Miss Giddens to believe, or want to believe, that supernatural forces are at work and out for the children.
Director Jack Clayton manages the tricky slight of hand of the novel by delivering horror from the realization of who is the real threat to the children, and the chance to save them, far too late. The performances of the children are very good, with Martin Stephens as Miles exceptionally capturing a very difficult character.
In an age of numbing CGI scares and filmmakers who the only thing The Ring taught was to load up their film with oh spooooky pale, sullen-looking children, The Innocents feels as fresh and unnerving as a newly dug grave.
A two-sided disc offers the choice between fullscreen and widescreen with the latter the obvious choice. The image is bright and clear with no smearing of the blacks and depth of image adding an extra dimension to the story. Sound is clear and sharp, as it should be.
Disappointingly sparse for such a title. A commentary track or a making of documentary would have been wonderful. Included is the theatrical trailer in slightly degraded condition, which curiously tries to sell the film as a William Castle-ish shocker, asking, “DO THEY EVER RETURN TO POSSESS THE LIVING?” A handful of trailers of Fox titles and recommendations are thrown in. The film hasn’t the cachet of the Val Lewton horrors so it’s doubtful we’ll get a better presentation - unless of course Hollywood decides it’s time for a remake. Which, in that case, the bare bones will do just fine thank you.
Jessica Ritchey , 3/29/2063