Resurrecting an Unsung Horror Gem
It's 1961, and Brit New Waver Jack Clayton makes a lavishly appointed 20th Century Fox movie version of Henry James's The Turn of the Screw, using a screenplay co-written by Truman Capote; it garners a few mild salutes, does its business, and no one's paid it much mind since. But is it the finest, smartest, most visually savvy horror film ever made by a big studio? Deborah Kerr is the sexually straitjacketed governess subject to either the ghastly duplicity of her dead-eyed charges (Martin Stephens and Pamela Franklin) or the threatening ghosts of the estate's previous servantsor bothand it might be the most unforgettable performance by a British actress in its decade. Clayton's filmmaking, mustering frisson by both candle and blazing daylight, could serve as an object lesson in its genre. Only Robert Wise's The Haunting, out two years later, came close to its edge-of-sight menace, repressed gothic angst, and all-suggestion creep-outs. Fox is also releasing eight other seasonal, bargain-priced library titles, including William Castle's penny-wise carny show House on Haunted Hill (1958) and the very odd, Robert Blochwritten The Cabinet of Caligari (1962), a Rod Serlingera remake of the German expressionist classic by way of cheap-modernist decor and psychoanalytic disorientation. It's something of an obscure sister film to Carnival of Soulsa woman's interiorized dreamsong of aimlessness and persecution
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