Based on Henry James’ novella The Turn of the Screw, this is the tale of a repressed governess (Deborah Kerr), who arrives at a country estate to care for two young children. She soon becomes convinced that the ghosts of the valet and the previous governess are haunting the place, and have evil designs on the children.
The Turn of the Screw is not only one of the masterpieces of the ghost story in English literature, it is also the very model of ambiguity. Are the gho…ts real, or is the governess insane? Or is it both? The film retains some of this ambiguity, with Freddie Francis’ magnificent B&W photography giving a terrifying reality to the ghosts (who are infinitely more disturbing in their simplicity than any CGI excess), but in the end does tilt towards the psychological explanation, thanks in no small part to Kerr’s portrayal of barely restrained hysteria and sexual obsession, which makes her at least, if not more, terrifying than the ghosts themselves.
The sound is in 2.0 stereo only, and the dialogue does rather consistently fall into surround incongruities. There is also the occasional bit of sibilance. On the plus side, there are some decent environmental effects (especially for a film from 1961), and the music sounds fine.
Both fullscreen and 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen options are present. Ignore the former. Freddie Francis’ CinemaScope compositions have been mutilated for far too long by that format on VHS. On widescreen, we can at last see just how marvellous his work is. The print is in terrific shape, with no damage to speak of. The grain is minor, and once or twice there’s a bit of flicker, but the B&W tones are fabulous.
The trailer, and some viewing recommendations. A real disappointment that there isn’t more, as this is a real classic. The menu is basic.
Never mind the lack of extras. At long last, this masterpiece can be seen as it was meant to be seen. Double-bill it with the original Haunting.
Special Features List
- Theatrical Trailer