December 12, 2013 5:46 pm

Review: The Innocents

Jack Clayton’s superb 1961 film of the Henry James ghost story is re-released
Deborah Kerr in 'The Innocents'©British Film Institute

Deborah Kerr in 'The Innocents'

Although at 40 Deborah Kerr was rather too old for the part of a trembling young governess (the actress looked a perfectly realised 40 most of her life), she is still terrifically fragile and suggestible in The Innocents, Jack Clayton’s superb 1961 adaptation of The Turn of the Screw. Two children in Kerr’s care in a remote English country mansion drift ever further into the clutches of a pair of villainous ghosts whose libidinous past hangs sultry in the summer air.

But is Kerr the one conjuring the demons? You can hear her brain whirring with the dreadful thrill and paranoia of it all – sweeping from room to darkened room with her candelabra glowing (Kerr was always peerless at dealing with hooped skirts). The ambiguity of Henry James’s story is all here, along with a horrible seam of rottenness, a sense that the pretty-poison house and its inhabitants have been long-infected – by loneliness as much as anything, by long, Edwardian afternoons stretching into interminable autumns.

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