In this lugubrious but brilliantly realized adaptation of Henry James' classic novella The Turn of the Screw, 19th century British governess Miss Giddens (Deborah Kerr) arrives at a bleak mansion to take care of Flora (Pamela Franklin) and Miles (Martin Stephens), the wealthy household's two children. Outwardly the children are little darlings, but the governess begins to feel that there's something unwholesome behind those beatific smiles. After several disturbing examples of the children's evil impulses, Miss Giddens gets information from the housekeeper (Megs Jenkins) that suggests that the children may be possessed by malign spirits -- or are all these events just the products of Miss Giddens's own imagination? The best and most frightening vignette in The Innocents occurs when the governess casually kisses young Miles, then recoils in horror when she realizes that someone other than Miles has kissed her back. Unlike many CinemaScope productions, The Innocents plays better in the claustrophobic confines of the TV screen. ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi
Henry James's The Turn of the Screw remains one of the best psychological thrillers ever written. This movie keeps the novella's ambiguity alive. Is Miss Giddens insane, or are the children possessed? Or maybe the children are just bad seeds? The Freudian implications, the grotesque imagery of corruption, and the duality of the children as victims and victimizers all make this a chilling tale. The only real downside to The Innocents is its wordiness. There is too much dialogue compressed into the film's running time and, consequently, characters speak too often with rushed breathlessness.