This near-perfect 1961 ghost story, adapted from Henry James’s 1898 novella ‘The Turn of the Screw’, has friends in high places. Martin Scorsese put it in his top ten list of nerve-janglers. ‘Beautifully crafted and acted, immaculately shot… and very scary,’ was his verdict. Deborah Kerr is Miss Giddens, who arrives at a gothic pile to work as governess to orphans Miles and Flora. Her angel-faced charges are good as gold. So why has Miles been expelled from boarding school? And why is there a dead pigeon with its neck broken under his pillow? This really is a masterclass in creepy-kid acting. ‘Don't shout, it does something to your face,’ trills Miles sweetly, his face a mask. ‘It makes you ugly and cruel.’
Miss Giddens becomes convinced the siblings are possessed – by a savage valet and his governess lover, who died recently in the house. Are they possessed? Or are these the twisted fantasies of a never-been-kissed governess? You can watch ‘The Innocents’ twice and walk away with different conclusions. Psychological horrors have imitated its ambiguous ending ever since. Few have pulled it off half as creepily.