TV Terror Guide: The Turn of the Screw (1974)


Air Date: April 15, 1974 (ABC)

Production Companies: Dan Curtis Productions

Running Time: 98 min.

Available on: DVD (MPI Home Video)

Written by: William F. Nolan

From Henry James

Directed by: Dan Curtis

Cast: Lynn Redgrave, Megs Jenkins, John Barron, Anthony Langdon, Kathryn Leigh Scott, James Laurenson

Today, as a special treat, I present an excerpt from a feature I wrote for the upcoming We Belong Dead publication, Masters of Terror. In it, I discuss the influence of gothic literature on Dan Curtis and how it was reflected in a number of TV horror films that he produced, as well as the daytime series, Dark Shadows (1966-1971), which he created. Please enjoy this sneak peek, and keep your eyes and ears open for information about purchasing the book...

While he was in England finishing Dracula, Curtis had already begun production on his next gothic thriller, The Turn of the Screw, with a script by William F. Nolan, based on the novel by Henry James. Curtis himself directed on location at Hennick House. At the time, Lynne Redgrave, who starred as the governess, Miss Jane Cubberly, said, “Dan Curtis is a larger-than-life character with a smile so broad, so extraordinary, that when he says, ‘You must do this,’ you think, ‘But of course!’ He brings such enthusiasm to his projects. Boy, did her really get involved in this – so involved in the Henry James story… It was wonderful working with him.”

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The Turn of the Screw aired as a two-part, late night miniseries on April 15 and 16, 1974, again on ABC. The combination of location shooting and videotape production achieved mixed results. The spacious rooms in Hennick House allowed for a little more camera movement and use of the camera angles that Curtis favored; however, more often than not, it looks like a home movie. Missing is a “texture” that is so important for a creepy setting. There’s not much about it that distinguishes it being directed by Dan Curtis, which is disappointing following not only Dracula, but his theatrical motion pictures like House of Dark Shadows (1970), Night of Dark Shadows (1971), and, two years later, Burnt Offerings (1976.) The ending, though, is terrific!

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Dark Shadows featured variations of The Turn of the Screw as part of two of its storylines: Quentin’s Ghost (episodes 639-700; December 5, 1968 through February 28, 1969) and Gerard Stiles (episodes 1071-1109; August 3, 1970 through September 24, 1970.) In both, a malevolent male ghost, either Quentin or Gerard (James Storm), is the substitute for the novel’s Peter Quint, haunting the substitutes for its children, Miles (David Collins, played by David Henesy) and Flora (Amy Jennings, played by Denise Nickerson, and Hallie Stokes, played by Kathleen Cody.) The difference is that the female ghosts that substitute for Miss Jessel, Beth Chavez (Terry Crawford) and Daphne Harridge (Kate Jackson) are not malevolent.

The Turn of the Screw is available on DVD from Amazon.com. Visit the TV Terror Guide: 70's TV Movies playlist at ClassicHorrors.Club TV on YouTube to watch other great movies from this series...

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