In the Jack Clayton–directed, Truman Capote–scripted The Innocents — based on Henry James’ famous ghost story The Turn of the Screw — Deborah Kerr stars as a governess who moves into a rambling old mansion to care for two kids who may or may not be possessed by the ghosts of two former workers. The governess starts to see things, most notably the spirit (or is it?) of the house’s former valet. Is he really there, or is the whole thing a product of the undersexed governess’s imagination? Aside from the film’s wonderful subtlety and almost perfect pacing, The Innocents contains one of ghost cinema’s greatest opening sequences. With a sad, unnerving song and the peaceful sound of birds chirping juxtaposed with the whispered, fraught praying of the governess, it’s a nearly perfect two minutes and 40 seconds. Watch above.
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