Big Shoes to Fill

         If you do a Google search for The Turn of the Screw, you will get 2,880,000 hits. The Turn of the Screw is one of the most talked about books in history. Everyone wants to know who is real, what the ghosts represent, what is figurative, and so forth. Henry James was a literary genius, and his 1898 book has inspired tons of research papers, essays, and reviews.

         Whether you think the ghosts are real, imaginary, or just a ploy to inspire people to read The Turn of the Screw, you have to respect The Innocents. Director Jack Clayton proves through his 1961 The Innocents that what makes a scary film is not gore and violence. It is atmosphere. A large gothic mansion, dim lighting, menacing camera movements, sinister sound effects, including maniacal laughter and weird buzzing noises, plus foreboding music by Georges Auric, all add to the sense of dread and mystery that are also so evident through James's vivid descriptions in The Turn of the Screw.

         This movie is a true example that good acting, such as that by Deborah Kerr as the increasingly terrified Miss Giddens, Martin Stephens and Pamela Franklin as the suspicious acting Miles and Flora, Megs Jenkins as the strange housekeeper, Clytie Jessop as the sorrowful Miss Jessel and Peter Wyngarde as the corrupt Peter Quint, as well as good cinematography by Freddie Francis, and a well-thought-out story, based on William Archibald's 1950 play, The Innocents, can go a lot further in making a positive impression than the mindless gore and violence of so many of today's films.

        The Innocents does not need all the flash and slash of today's films. Besides everyone is too busy watching the film and figuring out if the ghosts are real or not anyways.

Curt Stewart

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