Ghosts, and Crazies, and Crap, OH MY!

         I can only assume that Henry James was on some very very strong drugs when he wrote The Turn of the Screw in 1898. The story is too bizarre to have been written by someone who was in control of his mind. It started out simply enough; a governess is hired to look after two young orphans in a large estate out in the country. The story continues innocently enough (pun not intended), with the children and the governess enjoying each other's company and generally having a good time. But that is where the normalcy of the novella ends. Soon the governess begins seeing apparitions of the estate's former occupants. The rest of the novella consists of the governess simply trying to prove that the ghosts exist.

         In The Innocents, the 1961 Jack Clayton film adaptation, the story continues to be odd but then strives to be even stranger. The audience is led to believe that the governess, called Miss Giddens in the film, portrayed by Deborah Kerr, really loves the children, and I do mean really looooooooooooves the children-a little too much perhaps. She simply acts strangely sometimes around them, especially the young boy, Miles (Martin Stephens). She sees spirits around the estate but begins to doubt her own mind occasionally, as does the audience. By the end, she has succeeded not in proving the ghosts' existence to anyone but rather in killing Miles, after which she proceeds to make out with his dead body.

         The story is simply too strange for anyone to read and not ask him or herself: "What was Henry James on when he wrote this?" I suppose of the two, I would have to prefer the book, because it does not really delve so deeply into the wacky molestation/necrophilia adventure as the the film does.

Christopher Reaves

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