"Do you have an imagination?” Pointed words there, from the opening of Jack Clayton’s vintage ghost story.
Now we’ve seen human centipedes and hoodie horrors, its shady ambiguities and creepy kids might seem like cosy relics from tea-and-crumpets times. But Clayton’s adap of Henry James’ The Turn Of The Screw still chills by investing great craft in activating our minds.
Uncertainties mount quickly. When Deborah Kerr’s governess, Miss Giddens, takes a job caring for two angelic siblings, ghostly visions and their alarming precocity – that kiss! – spark questions. Are the kids possessed by evil spirits?
Or, in a film full of reflective surfaces, is Giddens projecting dark desires and not liking what she sees? But a synopsis can’t do justice to the psycho-sexual stew of Truman Capote and William Archibald’s script, or the artistry with which Clayton’s crew engage and unsettle our senses.
The supple, subtle sound mix pulls us close. Cinematographer Freddie Francis conjures luminous ’Scope images and creates special filters to blur their edges, making us peer into shadows for details.
On Blu, his work ravishes. Ghostly visions are seen from Giddens’ perspective then obscured, tethering the scares to her psychological make-up. Kerr expertly juggles poise with mounting panic.
There are few new-to-Blu extras, but excellent SD carry-overs include a scholarly talk-track and League Of Gentlemen ghoul Jeremy Dyson’s essay.
Dyson celebrates the “unconscious collaborative activity” invoked by Clayton’s edge-of-perception images: like, say, Paranormal Activity, they ignite attentive viewing and repay the watchful with shivers.