The Turn of the Screw (1974)

Article 2684 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 9-2-2008
Posting Date: 12-18-2008
Directed by Dan Curtis
Featuring Lynn Redgrave, Jasper Jacob, Eva Griffiths
Country: USA

A governess takes a position teaching two children at a country home. She begins to feel that they have been corrupted and possibly possessed by two former employees (now both deceased) of the home.

Of the various nineteenth century horror classics, I must admit that this is the one whose adaptations I’m most likely to watch only out of grudging duty than out of eagerness. My problem is with the inherent vagueness that permeates the story; though this quality is necessary to maintain that sense of unease and ambiguity that gives the story its depth, it’s also off-putting, somewhat tiresome, not much fun, and manifests itself in adaptations by giving us long scenes in which characters discuss things they either don’t want to discuss or for which they have very little concrete information. In this specific adaptation, we get lots of conversations between the governess and the housekeeper, mostly involving the governess trying to get information out of the housekeeper that she’s reluctant to give, and this gets repetitive. Combine this with the facts that the ghosts do little more than just stand around, much of the story is told via narration, the period dialogue somewhat strains the attention, and maybe you can understand why this is one story I just don’t care to revisit very often. This version of the story is far from awful, but, with THE INNOCENTS out there, it also seems distinctly unnecessary, and Dan Curtis’s direction fails to make this version special in any way. I may have to take a stab at reading the Henry James story; there’s something about the various versions I’ve seen that seems to indicate that there may be something unfilmable about the story.


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