The Innocents (1961)

It has been pipped to the honour of best British horror (only just, mind) by Don’t Look Now. But The Innocents has still got friends in high places. Martin Scorsese called it ‘beautifully crafted and acted, immaculately shot ... and very scary.’ The story is adapted from Henry James’s 1898 novella The Turn of the Screw. Deborah Kerr plays governess Miss Giddens, employed to look after the orphaned niece and nephew of a wealthy man (Michael Redgrave). The children behave like little angels. But why has Miles been expelled from boarding school for being a bad influence? Miss Giddens becomes convinces that the children are possessed by the spirits of dead lovers, the former governess, Miss Jessel (Clytie Jessop), and ex-valet Quint (Peter Wyngarde). Are they? Or are these the fantasies of a never-been-kissed governess? Films rarely pull off the ambiguous ending anything like as satisfyingly. Little wonder Truffaut called it ‘the best English film’ after Hitchcock left for America. CC
Dir Jack Clayton (Deborah Kerr, Michael Redgrave, Pamela Franklin)

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