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This Review Reveals Minor Details About the Plot.

The Operation Was a Success.
The Patient Died.

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Plot Overview

and booksRUSHIn Victorian England, late 19th century, a man-about-town (Michael Redgrave) selects novice governess Miss Giddens (Deborah Kerr) to care for his adolescent, orphaned niece & nephew on his country estate in Bly. Her dedication and love of children spoke well for a candidate needed to assume total respon­si­bility with­out any bother to him. She prayer­fully accepts.

dream catcherdiscipleshipmischievous boy w/slinggreen
egghome readingchauffeursleeping womanShe settles in well with the niece Flora (Pamela Franklin) a veritable angel who being a good girl expects to go to heaven when she dies. She, how­ever, has an odd belief that those too bad to make it there might be consigned to wander around down here. The nephew Miles (Martin Stephens) has been expelled from boarding school for his corrupt language and rough play. He'd been tight with the late valet Peter Quint (Peter Wyngarde) who seems to have been an unwhole­some influence on him.

good shepherdloverstea timetombstoneFrom the house­keeper Mrs. Grose (Megs Jenkins) emerges the back­ground story: Quint and the previous governess Miss Jessel (Clytie Jessop) were “in love” and carried on a torrid affair. One rainy night Quint coming home drunk stumbled on the stone stairs, hit his head and expired. Miss Jessel in grief drowned her­self in the lake. Since drunkards and suicides evidently go to different levels in the bad place, they have remained on earth to continue their doings down here as incubus and succubus possessing the children. Miss Giddens is obligated by her employer to handle any trouble with­out bothering him with it. She cannot go to the vicar for fear of causing a scandal. Mrs. Grose is useless and the servants hirelings. So from her limited church back­ground—her father was a minister—she her­self attempts the needed exorcisms, one by one, with mixed results.


This horror film presents a pattern of events tied to a couple's romance from beyond the grave, not so predictable I should think. It some­what follows a bell­wether land, sea & air motif of, (Prov. 30:18-19) “There be three things which are too wonderful for me, yea, four which I know not: The way of an eagle in the air; the way of a serpent upon a rock; the way of a ship in the midst of the sea; and the way of a man with a maid.” First, “the way of an eagle in the air” is represented by Flora's observation of, “a lovely spider and it's eating a butter­fly.” Unfortunately, watching it in B&W we can't appreciate the loveliness that Flora attributes to the spider, what was else­where described of its prey by Henry David Thoreau as, “My gay butterfly is entangled in a spider's web”—Walden. The spider, of course, is a vampire and it's really going to town on the hapless insect.

box turtle“The way of a serpent upon a rock” is represented by Flora's pet tortoise Rupert. She's not allowed to bring Rupert into the house, so she hides him in her skirts. For all her affection towards this torpid pet, she is some­what abusive, sinking the animal in the lake to see if it swims (like a rock) and also it'll get tossed like a bowling ball when tensions mount up.

“The way of a ship in the midst of the sea” is represented by Flora having rowed a boat to the gazebo to dance. She was too young to be allowed to handle the big boat all by her­self but did it in disobedience.

“The way of a man with a maid” portends to be a dark relationship, not some clever, touching ghost story.

Production Values

” (1961) was directed by Jack Clayton. Its screenplay was written by John Mortimer and William Archibald who adapted it from Henry James's short story, The Turn of the Screw. It stars Deborah Kerr, Peter Wyngarde and Megs Jenkins. The acting was most excellent, especially from lovely Deborah Kerr.

This 1961 movie passed the Hays production code standards as non-objectionable—like what we now call PG,—voluntarily implemented before the current rating system came into play, by an industry wanting to avoid government censor­ship or regional restrictions. The latter could be well illustrated from author Paul Wellman as:

interference from the strait-laced element which, in Kansas, listed the Seven Deadly Sins quite different from those denominated by the early Church Fathers. The Kansas Seven were: dancing, cards, the theater, nonattendance at church, tobacco, drinking and profanity. To the peculiar mental bent, the chief zest of which is the regulation of the lives of others, not even theft, murder, or adultery seemed some­how so important as these deadly sins. (68)

Kansas was an abode of many Pharisees who thanked God that they were not as other men. They condemned sin more loudly and constantly than it was condemned any­where else, but they had their own category of sins. Certain sins were blacker than others. (137)

playersbugs waltzingMrs. Grose tells of the former governess, "She and Miss Flora used to dance together, dance by the hour." The uncle's posture and verbiage ("Give me your hand") resembled those of a poker player intent on his game, he traveled to Calcutta known for its gambling, and he came across as a gambling addict relegating family respon­si­bilities to last place. They show this movie in a cinema house, what can be read in a perfectly respectable book. The characters do attend church and delay a necessary trip until after the service. Nobody smokes on screen. Quint had been “full of drink” the night he died. As for profanity, Miles in anger calls Miss Giddens “a damned hussy” and “a dirty hag,” the limits of what one could get away with under the Hays code.

This 1961 B&W movie used first rate cinematography to achieve a creepy ambiance cum bucolic back­drop. The music and acting added to the effect. The screen­play itself kept the audience off balance. Runtime is 1 hour 40 minutes.

Review Conclusion w/a Christian's Recommendation

prayingThe movie starts and ends with the leading lady in earnest prayer. When she has nobody else to rely on, she relies on God who answers her prayer but not in the way she expects.

This is a sneaky horror film that draws one in rather than bombard him with special effects. It's a memorable classic.

Movie Ratings

Action Factor: Weak action scenes. Suitability for children: Suitable for children with guidance. Special effects: Well done special effects. Video Occasion: Better than watching TV. Suspense: Keeps you on the edge of your seat. Overall movie rating: Five stars out of five.

Works Cited

Scripture is quoted from the King James Version. Pub. 1611, rev. 1769. Software.

Wellman, Paul I. The Walls of Jericho. Copyright © 1947 by Paul I. Wellman. Philadelphia and New York: J.B. Lippincott Company. Print.