****/**** Image A+ Sound A Extras A
starring Deborah Kerr, Peter Wyngarde, Megs Jenkins, Michael Redgrave
screenplay by William Archibald and Truman Capote, based on The Turn of the Screw by Henry James
directed by Jack Clayton
by Walter Chaw Jack Clayton's incomparable tale of sexual repression and a very particular vintage of Victorian, feminine hysteria opens with shadows, wrung hands, and the sound of weeping. The Innocents is of a kind with Alexander Pope's "The Rape of the Lock" and Andrew Marvell's "To His Coy Mistress": that marriage of high burlesque and menacing metaphysics that is on the one hand dense and open to unravelling, and on the other as smothering and lush as a Raymond Chandler hothouse. By opening in the exact same way as Jacques Tourneur's/Val Lewton's I Walked with a Zombie--a flashback/forward to a non-diegetic scene, a sitting-room interview, a claustrophobic setting laced with musk and frustration and the ghosts of the sins of the father--it announces itself as an expressionistic piece orbiting around a Brontë heroine. Having Truman Capote adapt Henry James's The Turn of the Screw, right in the midst of his In Cold Blood period (two taxonomists of beasts in the jungle of the Id), is an act of genuine inspiration. Their shared illness infects the film.