Shot on location at a Gothic mansion in Sussex, England, this stunning adaptation of The Turn Of The Screw sees a governess, Miss Giddens (Deborah Kerr), hired to watch over the niece and nephew of an absent uncle at his country estate. Little is shown explicitly, but much is implied, and soon Miss Giddens comes to believe the children are possessed by the sprits of their recently-deceased governess and valet.
With a beautifully crafted screenplay co-written by Truman Capote, The Innocents is a film of creeping dread and deep psychological complexity with Freudian overtones. It’s also a feast for the eyes thanks to director Jack Clayton and cinematographer Freddie Francis, who generated their chills through the use of deep focus and subtle lighting techniques. Editor Jim Clarke’s hypnotic use of dissolves and crossfades intoxicates the viewer, planting us into the hazy mind of the haunted and the possessed.
The Innocents failed to connect with audiences at the time of its release, but it is today recognised not only as an all-time-great horror, but as one of the best British films ever made. It was nominated for two BAFTA Awards: Best British Film and Best Film from any Source. Jack Clayton received the National Board of Review Award for Best Director. It was comfortably worthy of a nomination for the Best Picture Oscar, but the Academy felt otherwise.