The Innocents Jack Clayton

This 1960 Henry James adaptation has a fervent cult following, and it's no wonder: it gives The Turn of the Screw the full flower of pathos it so richly deserves. Deborah Kerr plays the ill-starred governess who suspects her young charges are being stalked by the ghosts of dead servants; she can't prove anything, and may be going crazy, but she's determined to pry the children from the forces she believes are about to destroy them. Clayton and writers Truman Capote and William Archibald take a modishly psychological approach to Kerr's belief in ghosts, but though it smacks of pop-psych Freud 101 it doesn't manage to sink an otherwise powerful and sensuous production. If the resolve of James's heroine is knocked off kilter, it's done at the highest level of expertise: Freddie Francis should have won an Oscar for his gently treacherous camera movements and Kerr strikes the right note of paralyzed fear in her portrayal of the painfully beleaguered protagonist. Its slight misunderstanding of its modern approach keeps it from being a masterpiece; it's ultimately only about its own machinations, and doesn't go further. But what machinations, and what a beautiful, short distance! Director Jack Clayton has pulled off a fine piece of miniaturist work that amazes you with its detail while working in a minor key. If it's no masterpiece, it's still a satisfying piece of work that sticks to your ribs and keeps you glued to the screen as the elegant torments of Kerr and her charges wreak havoc and arouse Aristotelian pity and fear. Available in a flipper full-screen/widescreen edition; sadly, with no extras. (Fox)