THE TURN OF THE SCREW
The film makes a number of changes to the story. One of the more striking is that there is much more of a sexual element to the story where it is now seen that Quint would sexually abuse the womenfolk of the house. There is also an element of attraction between the governess and the master (who is later seen as a womanising lecher, although this could be simple one of the unreliable stories that are recounted throughout) and she longs for his return. The other touch is the introduction of the psychologist (Dan Stevens) in the wraparound segments. The Turn of the Screw is frequently seen by literary critics as a psychological ghost story and this serves the function of highlighting the psychological elements and analysing Anns motives and actions.
As with most adaptations of The Turn of the Screw, this version is stuck with certain problems due to simply coming via the filmed medium. Because everything we see is relayed via the image rather than the ambiguity of the printed word, the film slides over into being a more overt ghost story and is thus less ambiguous. The Innocents (1961), the best of the film versions, is still the only one that truly grasps the subtle and haunting effect of the story. Certainly, Tim Fywell, a regular British tv director, does a fair job of suggesting this although he gives us far more in the way of ghostly appearances than Henry James ever did. He does an especially good job when it comes to depicting what Michelle Dockery is projecting, especially a scene where she insists on seeing something sexual in the scenes of the children rolling around in the grass. This version even takes the ambiguity of approach so far as to offer up two differing accounts of what happened in the past with Quint. The film also ends on a coda with the next governess approaching and the sense that the entire scenario is going to repeat itself over again something that definitely comes down on the side of the supernatural.
Michelle Dockery, who was just an emerging actress at the time, is an unusual choice as Miss Giddens, here named simply Ann. She has glossy skin that makes her look like a mannequin with its hair pulled back into a severe bun that has caused her then face to be frozen in the perpetual expression of surprise. The children are well cast, especially good being Josef Lindsay who is all smiling blonde good looks he is one of the few others in the part of Miles to suggest the grown-up sophistication and toying manneredness that Martin Stephens did in The Innocents.
This version updates the Henry James original from the 1890s to the mid-1920s. The films exact timeframe is somewhat confusing as it takes place where all the menfolk of the house have gone off to the War, although we see from the gravestone that Quint and Miss Jessel died in 1920, which would mean that their deaths, which take place before the timeframe of the story begins, occurred after World War I, which ended in 1918.
Other adaptations of The Turn of the Screw include:- an earlier live tv play The Turn of the Screw (1959) directed by John Frankenheimer and starring Ingrid Bergman; the classic adaptation The Innocents (1961) starring Deborah Kerr; Dan Curtiss well-regarded tv movie The Turn of the Screw (1974) with Lynn Redgrave; a 1974 adaptation for French tv; The Turn of the Screw (1982), a German-made operatic adaptation; a 1989 adaptation for Shelley Duvals Nightmare Classics starring Amy Irving; Rusty Lemorandes The Turn of the Screw (1993) with Patsy Kensit, which updated the story to the 1960s; the tv movie The Haunting of Helen Walker/The Turn of the Screw (1995) starring Valerie Bertinelli; Presence of Mind (1999), a Spanish-made adaptation with Sophie Ward and Harvey Keitel; a British tv adaptation The Turn of the Screw (1999) with Jodhi May and Colin Firth; the operatic adaptation The Turn of the Screw by Benjamin Britten (2004); the modernised In a Dark Place (2006) starring Leelee Sobieski; and an Italian tv version The Turn of the Screw (2009). Michael Winners The Nightcomers (1971) purports to be a prequel that concerns itself with the relationship between Quint and Miss Jessel, something that in Winners clumsy mishandling belies the delicate ambiguity of the story.