(director: Jack Clayton; screenwriters: William Archibald/Truman Capote/based on the story, “The Turn of the Screw,” by Henry James; cinematographer: Freddie Francis; editor: James Clark; music: Georges Auric; cast: Deborah Kerr (Miss Giddens), Peter Wyngarde (Peter Quint), Megs Jenkins (Mrs. Grose), Michael Redgrave (The Uncle), Martin Stephens (Miles), Pamela Franklin (Flora), Clytie Jessop (Miss Jessel), Isla Cameron (Anna); Runtime: 99; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Jack Clayton; 20th Century-Fox; 1961-UK)

This classic ghost tale is based on Henry James’ 1898 novella, The Turn of the Screw.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

This classic ghost tale is based on Henry James’ 1898 novella, The Turn of the Screw, one of the great ghost stories in literature. Though filmed many times before, this one directed by Jack Clayton(“The Room At The Top”/”The Pumpkin Eater”/”The Great Gatsby”) and written with a modern-day Freudian edge by William Archibald and Truman Capote is considered the most elegant and scariest.

Miss Giddens (Deborah Kerr), a minister’s daughter, is hired by the master of Bly House to be the governess to his adorable niece Flora (Pamela Franklin) and his angelic appearing nephew Miles (Martin Stephens). Both are orphans. Mrs. Grose (Megs Jenkins) is the housekeeper.

We soon learn that Miles is expelled from school for being a corrupting influence on the other students.

When Miss Giddens reports seeing a man and a woman on the grounds, Mrs. Grose is horrified to identify both parties from the governess’s description as former servant lovers: the manager valet Quint (Peter Wyngarde) and the governess Miss Jessel (Clytie Jessop). The problem is that both are deceased. The former workers were rumored to have been perverted influences on the children, and Miss Giddens believes they have returned as ghosts to take possession of the children. The governess is determined to prevent this abduction, and fights them even if she has no proof they exist.

Its well-staged ambiguous ending leaves us wrestling with uncertainty if the scenario is merely the active imagination of a virgin governess or if it’s really happening. The cleverly written script by Archibald and Capote, the excellent direction by Clayton, the chilling photography by Freddy Francis and Kerr’s superb performance, make this one of the more intelligent ghost story films.

REVIEWED ON 10/29/2014 GRADE: A-