During the brief period between Clint Eastwood's string of spaghetti westerns and his Dirty Harry films, he and director Don Siegel teamed up to make this unusual picture. Eastwood plays an injured Union Army corporal during the Civil War who is taken in by a southern school for girls until he recovers from his wounds. It has been a while since the young women (most of which seem to be teenagers) have had a man on the premises, so they are reluctant to turn him in to the local rebel soldiers. The resulting situations are often humorous, shocking, erotic, or even downright grotesque as Eastwood slowly regains his strength and begins to brood over the establishment.
The basic storyline almost sounds like the makings of a porno film. We have a masculine male suddenly surrounded by young nubile women. Most of them are sexually attracted to him. And he is more than willing to spread the love amongst them. The material never really slips down to the level of "tasteless", however. Eastwood, Siegel, and cinematographer Bruce Surtees are such skilled filmmakers, that the film always retains its dignity.
Eastwood's John McBurney is like no other character he has ever played. McBurney is an amoral, conniving, and lustful charlatan. He knows that most of the women, even the youngest want his bod, and he lets more than one of them have a shot at him. McBurney often uses flattery to butter the women up, then uses his rugged good looks to reel them in. He is like a drunken player at a cocktail party, often hitting on different women even in the same scene! Eventually, his lustful ways cause him great agony and loss in a way you must see for yourselves. This author would not dream of revealing the specific consequences of his actions, but there is little doubt he has them coming.
Eastwood gives a typically great performance. He seems to be having a blast with the role until things turn really ugly, then he turns mean and ugly. Geraldine Page is a treat as the steely B*tch who runs the school. We know she wants McBurney as much as the other girls, but with her checkered past shown to us in flashbacks, we find out that isn't all she's after! Mae Mercer as a slave belonging to the school gives a great performance, too. She obviously knows McBurney is a skunk from the beginning, and she never lets his phony charm bring her guard down. This is a character you will want to know more about after the film is over. She seems to have a greater knowledge of the world than anyone else in the film.
The Beguiled did poorly in its theatrical release. Nobody was quite sure what to make of it, and some of its content no doubt raised a few eyebrows in 1971. For example, in an early scene we see Eastwood romantically kiss a 12-yr-old girl. Is he just trying to keep her quiet when the rebel soldiers get close, or is he really enjoying it? Probably both! A fantasy sequence later on even shows Clint getting it on with not only Page, but her young assistant! Truly some interesting goings on in this one. It's a good thing Eastwood became the star he did, or this one might have been long forgotten.
"The Beguiled" is one of my favorite Clint Eastwood films, and a departure from his typical early roles. Directed by Don Siegel, with whom Eastwood collaborated on several films, it was made a year before Eastwood's directorial debut with "Play Misty For Me". An alternate title considered for the film was "Pussy-Footing Down At The Old Plantation", which thankfully was not used, otherwise I am sure raunchy jokes about the fact that it takes place at a girls' school would be difficult to avoid. I first saw this movie in one of my college film classes in the mid-1970's, and was immediately taken with it. I only had an old battered VHS tape of it until I recently purchased the widescreen DVD, which also includes the hilarious, awful trailer that makes the film come across as a "Peyton Place" soap opera, and conveys none of the creepiness of the film.
Interesting notes: Eastwood and Siegel had to battle with Universal Pictures to keep the original ending, and they won out; and, the film was billed as a standard Eastwood western, which it certainly is not. It is a Gothic tale of deception and horror set in the time of the Civil War, with an underlying tone of eroticism and sexual tension running throughout.
I'm not putting any spoilers in this review, and if you want to see the film as it should be seen, then be careful of looking it up on the internet, as spoiler reviews of it do abound.
Clint Eastwood portrays John McBurney, a Union soldier who is shot on Confederate ground and discovered by a young girl from a nearby girls' school. She rescues him and takes him back to the school, but instead of notifying the local patrol of his presence so that he will be taken to prison, the headmistress, Miss Martha (Geraldine Page), her assistant Edwina (Elizabeth Hartman), their black servant Hallie (Mae Mercer), and the mostly teenage girls take him in, heal him, and fall under his spell. The film sets its tone of creepiness and Gothic horror right from the titles, as it shows real battleground shots from the war, while Eastwood's voice is heard quietly singing a funereal song of the time.
The opening scene of his encounter with the little girl who saves him sets the tone of his character, and the tone of the entire movie. To say any more than that would spoil the surprises in that first scene. To say much more about the film itself might ruin it for anyone who hasn't seen it...if you are into creepy, Gothic tales, find it and rent it. Eastwood is excellent in the film, and it is interesting to see him in an early role, or any role, where he portrays a character that is for the most part very unsympathetic.
Geraldine Page had a plum role in the film as the headmistress, and I cannot imagine another actress of the time being as good in the role; a long shot could have been Piper Laurie, but I don't think Laurie could have embodied the role in the same manner as Geraldine Page.
Elizabeth Hartman (whose wonderful performance in the film "A Patch of Blue" as a blind girl who falls in love with Sidney Poiter's character is another high point in her short career) is at her prime here, delicate and masterful at the same time. Unfortunately, her delicacy on film was also a part of her real life; she committed suicide at age 45.
I end this review with this observation: one manipulative, lying Yankee man is no match for a houseful of deceptive and libidinous Southern belles.
This Don Siegel/Clint Eastwood strange and hypnotic drama was left by the wayside in 1971 and what a pity. A fascinating character study with some great women for Squint to deal with. Geraldine Page was one of our supreme actresses and she's perfectly cast. Young Jo Ann Harris is a flirty minx, and Elizabeth Hartman (who died too young) is undeniably repressed.
A 7 out of 10. Best performance = C. Eastwood. Released the same year as DIRTY HARRY, this did no business, beside getting some good reviews. Seek this out unless you're only into "Explosion" films. Very subtle and frightening, this piece will stick with you.
Anybody who hasn't seen this film is truly missing something special. Though it may not necessarily be for everyones tastes. This film may possibly break more 'sexual taboos' than any other, and it is another wonderful example of the early 70's trend of high creativity and barrier's being broken like no other time. It is haunting and unusual, both erotic and disturbing. Lalo Schifrin's music is superbly "dreamy" and dark, the photography and imagery are equally so. A very intelligent, groundbreaking inventive film.
Clever psychosexual drama about a wounded Union soldier (Clint Eastwood) who seeks refuge in an isolated Confederate school for young women during the Civil War. Slowly, Eastwood begins to seduce every girl in sight, until the tables are turned and he becomes the pursued in an unsettling, gothic-toned finale. Never has a film been so deliciously erotic yet disturbingly macabre at the same time.
This is undoubtedly Eastwood's finest hour (those who tune in for "Dirty Harry" will indeed be surprised), while the rest of the cast gives uniformly superb performances. Try to see the film on video, as television prints usually delete crucial flashback scenes between Geraldine Page and Patrick Culliton.
Another well done moral ambiguity pieces where the anti-hero makes it hard to decide who to root for.
If nothing else "The Beguiled" silenced anyone who said there were no good parts for actresses in movies-at least in 1971. There were four excellent parts for actresses in this film and all were well cast and well executed.
Pamelyn Ferdin did a fine job as Amy and would go on to play "Wanda June". This must have been the first time an adult male box office star shared an extended kiss with a twelve-year-old girl on camera, wonder if there was much controversy about this at the time. It was probably Polanski's favorite scene. Given the fate of Amy's turtle "Randolph", it is no surprise that Ferdin grew up to be a hardcore animal rights activist.
Geraldine Page was likewise excellent, playing a complex character with just the right amount of restraint. It is interesting that she died just three days after Elizabeth Hartman committed suicide (throwing herself through a fifth floor window) as they had also worked together in "You're a Big Boy Now".
Hartman (who looks like she could be Blair Brown's sister) was wonderful as Edwina and should have gotten an Oscar (no other performance was even close that year), but given what we now know about her you wonder just how much of her performance was a studied effort and how much just came from inside her. Edwina shows such raw pain it is difficult to watch. Like Marilyn Monroe's incredible performance in "The Misfits", the viewer is probably seeing a whole lot of her own demons in the character she is playing.
Finally there is Jo Ann Harris who is stunningly perfect as the flirty Carol. For my money Harris was the sexiest actress of the 1970's, combining sensuality with intelligence and humor. She was the best reason to watch the "Most Wanted" television series and the only reason to watch "Wild Wild West Revisited". Hard to believe that someone who could bring all that to the screen never became a big star.
This powerful drama centering around the effect which the arrival of a wounded civil war soldier has on a house full of women is probably Don Siegel's finest achievement, and is yet another example of Eastwood's willingness to break new ground and tackle new genres. It is also, perhaps, the finest acting performance of his career. His presence in the house releases not only deeply repressed sexual urges in the women who are helping him to recover from his wounds, but a sexually competitive frenzy which becomes ever more dangerous and frightening.
.....and it's a good one, too. In fact, this may be one of the best studies of sexual repression ever made. It's extremely well-acted and has some downright chilling moments. An often overlooked film in Clint Eastwood's filmography, and atypical of him, to be sure, but if you're willing to accept him in such an ambiguous role, it's certainly very gripping. (***)
Estrogen overload! Clint Eastwood fights for his life behind enemy lines! Yes, he's trapped in a school full of women!
BEGUILED finds wounded Union soldier John McBurney (Eastwood) seeking refuge at a Confederate home for girls, led by spinster Martha (Geraldine Page), who, against her better judgment, tends to his wounds and allows him to recover in hiding in her girls' home. And every female within sniffing distance - from 50-year-old Martha to the 19-year-old virgin, to the 16-year-old slut to the 10-year-old innocent - wants a piece o' dat beef Clint-cake!
McBurney encourages every flirtation with that twinkle in his eye and a never-ending stream of compliments for all the women on his oh-so-kissable lips. Even the cynical black slave gets it into her head that she can get her a piece of that action.
Of course, McBurney is playing them all, planning to desert his regiment and sit out the war in their figurative and literal embrace.
Any other actor in the role of McBurney, this would have been a somber drama of obsession and womanly retribution. But because it's Clint, it's dangerously hilarious, as he spreads his man-musk with that Philo Beddoe charm. We always knew that anyone who could burn down so many men would be a master juggler of women.
McBurney's constant stream of lies and false promises would be his undoing. He tells Martha he was wounded carrying an enemy soldier to safety, while in fact he was sniping; he promises to run away with No.19 (Elizabeth Hartman), then accepts the lecherous advances of No.16 (Jo Ann Harris); he promises innocent love to No.10 (Pamelyn Ferdin), then smashes her turtle against a wall. And when Martha's fantasies of sliding her aged skin against that taut chest are dashed by discovering No.16 in his bed, it's hell from so many angles at once that no man - not even The Man's Man Clint - can withstand its emasculative fury.
The most amazing aspect of BEGUILED is that it's filled with women and doesn't get screechy or intolerable. Yet it is scarier than any horror movie with its castration allegory - for the sake of petty scorn. And never has an allusion to Michelangelo's Pieta been so hot hot threesome hot.
There are no shots fired and no bombastic battle scenes, even though it's set during the American Civil War. Revenge doesn't have to be a mushroom cloud, it can just be... mushrooms...
From the novel by Thomas Cullinan, BEGUILED is a study in betrayal, and director Don Siegel not only paces it with a solid mix of tension, pathos and black humor, he fits the female cast perfectly to their roles - from Page's yearning spinster (with a very dirty secret), to Hartman's naive nineteen-year-old with the chaste romantic fantasies, to Harris's teen slut with the upturned nose, upturned lips and upturned breasts. (I think we have a winner...)
Clint Eastwood in a soap opera? You bet! Gothic melodrama is what a real critic would most likely call it. Wounded Yankee soldier Eastwood is rescued from the field by several southern school girls. He finds himself in an isolated all girls school surrounded by young ladies from about 10 years old up to the middle aged school mistress. Kinky! Crushes and jealousy kick in as Eastwood attempts to get as much mileage out of his situation as he can. He's a nasty man, but these are some nasty girls. I remember when this came out at the drive-in. No one really knew what to make of it. A few months later "Dirty Harry" was released and this out of step Clint Eastwood movie just disappeared. That's a shame. It's something really different. Directed by Eastwood's longtime collaborater Don Segal, the film has a highly stylized look and feel to it. It's just plain creepy and that feeling never lets up. There are no good guys or bad guys, just nasty people trying to take advantage of other nasty people who in turn grow nastier and nastier as the movie progresses. It doesn't cover all the ground the book did. (I read it during a tour of jury duty some years ago.) But it moves at a good pace and it's sometimes complicated plot stays reasonable easy to follow. (The book was very hard to keep straight!) Creepy and nasty and very different. Well worth a look, especially by Eastwood fans.
By no means a typical Clint Eastwood movie this odd bordering on weird Civil War drama is worth viewing for the interesting collection of actresses assembled and its rather schizophrenic air of suppressed sexual hysteria. A definite mood piece that takes it's time getting were it going but not without interest or merit. Elizabeth Hartman didn't make many films but always had a distinctive presence, her intensity adds quite a bit to the overall tenor of this. Clint and the great Geraldine Page are an fascinating match although they apparently didn't hit it off too well behind the scenes leading to Miss Page's rather caustic quote "Yes I have acted with Clint Eastwood. Or rather, I have acted opposite Clint Eastwood."
A wounded man lives in a boarding school for girls. It sounds like a very pleasant situation for a man. Not necessarily the Yankee Corporal Mac Burney will learn it the hard way.
This film may seem slow and soft by the lack of action and major events, but he'll be rich as a psychological drama.
With the backdrop of American Civil War, it looks at first, essential concepts such as patriotism against the human duty, slavery and freedom and then soak and sink, without the viewer being aware account, into the climate of the school, who, to protect the war is turning in on itself and lives in near self-sufficiency.
The temptation, love, jealousy, hatred, manipulation, patriotism, all this concept lead us to something strong, disturbing and unexpected. Like Corporal northerner McBurney, we are gradually drawn into the negative atmosphere and everything seems to shrink as trapped in the boarding school and its occupants.
A well-made film, with a team that is now well known and confirmed her talent, we just mentioned the most famous talents Eastwood, Don Siegel, Lalo Schifrin for music ... After 'Coogan' bluff and psychology more in-depth with "The Beguiled " we looking forward to the next movie of this team ..." Dirty Harry "...
A well done psychological drama and suspense, we can feel a very good Hitchcock spirit, or touch, that fully confirmed by the next film of Eastwood "Play misty for me".
This movie is not what it appears to be. Clint Eastwood is not Dirty Harry or a "cowboy" here. The movie's appeal comes from its careful manipulation of atmosphere and theme. It's a Gothic tale set in the Civil War and as such all the film's "action", or lack thereof, takes place inside a house populated by Southern Belles of all ages and shapes.
The horror comes from viewing the whole story through the eyes of the Clint Eastwood character. Seeing him stranded in the house and held captive by the women is a very "beguiling" experience indeed. And who is "beguiled" here exactly? Are the women beguiled by Eastwood's incredible looks? Are we, the viewers, beguiled by both his sexual allure and the potential deviant sexualities it unleashes? Or does "beguiled" refer to what the director does here-- holds us enthralled for a short space only to (maybe)let us go? Don Siegel does all of the above in one of the most memorable and disturbing films I had the pleasure of watching.
It is hard to know what category to put this film in, most films set in this time period of US history are westerns but here instead of the wide open plains of the west the action is almost entirely confined to a claustrophobic girls boarding school in Louisiana.
The film opens with Amy, a young girl, walking though the woods picking mushrooms, as she does so she stumbles upon Corporal John 'McBee' McBurney, a wounded Union soldier, who she takes back to the school. We know that he isn't a particularly nice person when he kisses her on the lips to distract her from alerting a passing Confederate patrol even though she told him she was twelve.
Once back at the school opinions are divided about what should be done with their new guest, some think they should look after him till his wounds are healed while others believe that it is treason not to hand him over to Confederate forces at the first opportunity. The former group prevail and he gradually recovers. As he does so his presence has an effect on all of the girls who haven't had a man on site for a long time, including a young teacher and the head mistress who's previous relationship appears to have been with her own brother. McBee sets about seducing them, emotionally if not physically, this leads to considerable jealousy amongst the girls.
While this film is rated fifteen it is definitely not for younger viewers both for the sexual content, of which little is actually shown but much is implied, and for a very gruelling scene which had me squirming more than any other scene in any film I've seen for quite some time. It is interesting to see Clint Eastwood play against type, instead of being heroic his character is both unpleasant and for most of the time at the mercy of the women around him. The acting is solid throughout, not just from Eastwood but also from all the actresses, including the young Pamelyn Ferdin who played Amy.
THE BEGUILED is indeed a memorable movie , but when you think about it in any great detail this should have been a disaster of a movie
1 ) There are no likable characters . Think about it , Eastwood's anti hero is a bush-wacker while the girls - Some of whom are serious jail bait - are hypocrits . Who are we supposed to be cheering for ?
2 ) Nothing much happens
3 )The downbeat ending . Everyone loves happy endings right ? Just think how regarded THE SHAWSHANK REDEMPTION wouldn't have been if it wasn't for the feel good factor
4 ) You could see this being marketed as a western when it was released and still being marketed as such every time it's shown on television and all the western fans being disappointed when they find out it's not a western
And yet THE BEGUILED works because of these things . Eastwood is hardly the most versatile actor in the history of Hollywood but he's most impressive here while the supporting cast shine . Don Siegel direction is very restrained , some people might say the directing is flat and they wouldn't be entirely inaccurate and that's by no means a criticism but he does concentrate on a slightly brooding atmosphere
Perhaps the reason this movie works so well is down to the timing of its production . By the early 1970s conservative Hollywood was finally waking up to new ideas and new themes even though there was still reluctance by the studios to go over board . The movie is blatantly about repressed sexual desire but there's no explict sex . Can you imagine this being remade today with Brad Pitt playing the Union soldier who stumbles into the girls school with 19 year old starlets with implants playing 15 year olds ? Now that would be a disaster
As it is THE BEGUILED is a haunting story worthy of Poe or Ambrose Bierce and shouldn't be remade
Young Amy finds injured union soldier Corporal John McBurney (Clint Eastwood). She takes him back to her boarding school run by Martha Farnsworth (Geraldine Page). The girls are fearful of the approaching war and the possible arrival of union soldiers. Martha decides to not turn him over to the Confederate patrols. Every female is stirred up by the arrival of McBurney. He's a charmer and a liar. Martha is both lustful and jealous. Carol (Jo Ann Harris) is a sexual 17 year old student. Edwina (Elizabeth Hartman) is the sweet innocent romantic teacher. Amy is completely infatuated with McBurney and keeps a pet turtle.
This movie has a natural Gothic romantic horror vibe. I really like the constant disturbed tone. It's a slightly different character that Eastwood is playing. The movie is playing to fear of a group of women destroying a man. I would prefer the school be much more isolated. More isolation would build up a greater sense of dread. The other possibility is to make capture a much more vicious affair. That way the dread is build up both outside the school as it slowly builds inside. Either way, the influences from the outside keep muddying up the creepy relationships in the house.
Downbeat, yet at times almost Gothic in its evocation of atmosphere, this is a disquieting but involving drama based around the unusual premise of a wounded Union soldier being taken in at a private school for girls of the southern, confederate persuasion.
Clint Eastwood is the duplicitous soldier who takes advantage of the miss lonely hearts who duly line up for his attentions and from an uncharismatic start, develops into a more complex character who too late repents of his dark side and that he might have been kinder to animals (especially pet turtles) as well as the woman-folk who come his way.
The film is certainly condescending towards women with three of the adults (if 17 counts as an adult) and a young child all smitten with Eastwood's handsome cripple. Eastwood's soldier, on the other hand, perhaps goes too much to extremes and could perhaps have been shown to be a bit more sympathetic, but it was a brave decision for him to play a character who on the surface compliments his hostesses eloquently, but on the other hand has no compunction about bedding any of them who take his fancy.
Director Don Seigel lets situations develop at their own pace and the characterisations to deepen as they go, perhaps over-egging the narrative with the lurid back-stories of the headmistress played by Geraldine Page and the female black slave, but I liked the Gothic touches of heightened passions with characters voicing their thoughts while the mordant conclusion is appropriately unsensational and unheroic.
There's a thin line of good taste which Seigel has to negotiate and apart from an early shocking scene when Eastwood escapes detection by a Confederate patrol to set up the film's first and in the end most significant infatuation and a later "menage-a-quatre" dream sequence, he skirts around it adroitly. Beautifully shot, well paced and excellently acted by all the actors, this film strikes me as one of Clint Eastwood's best, all the better for being so far off the beaten track.
During the Civil War an injured corporal , Clint Eastwood , is taken by the women of a girls' school to recuperate himself . As the Southern school is run by a housekeeper , Geraldine Page , and there appears a teacher : Elizabeth Hartman and six students and an African-American servant . The soldier becomes the catalyst for twisted situations with incidents full of hatred and jealousy among its inhabitants . He arranges to seduce both , a pupil -Jo Ann Harris- and a teacher -Elizabeth Hartman , but things go wrong.
Offbeat , rare and well paced psychological melodrama by the great team formed by Eastwood and Siegel , though disappointed the spectators faithful to his ordinary action films . Maybe the stranger , yet spellbinding combination of two genius -Clint and Donald- ever made , being based on the 1966 novel , "The Painted Devil" by Thomas P. Cullinan . The flick soon develops into a kind of full blood drama , smouldering with intrigue , suspense , tragic events and suppressed passions ; and all of them lead to an unpredictable and startling conclusion . Clint gives a nice acting as a squinty-eyed soldier who arrives in a seminary for young ladies and who soon reveals his opportunist nature . Excellent interpretation from Geraldine Page as zealous ruler , she is a fading Southern woman , brooding over the past , and Elizabeth Hartman as a naive South belle who falls for Eastwood .
Atmospheric and attractive musical score by Lalo Schifrin , including song sung by Clint Eastwood himself . Colorful and evocative cinematography by Bruce Surtees . This daring change of pace for director Donald Siegel was compellingly and methodically made . Being an unusual Donald fare , but for patient audiences a rewarding , rich movie and Siegel's favorite of all his movies . However , being commercially a failure because Universal Studios released it with advertisements that suggested it was an action movie . Siegel directed good films of all kinds of genres as Invasion of body snatchers , Madigan , Charley Varrick , The Shootist , Ríot in cell Block 11 , Flaming star , Big steal , Black Windmill , Private hell , Rough cut , and a lot of movies starred by Eastwood as Escape from Alcatraz , Two mules for Sister Sarah , Coogan's bluff and Dirty Harry
A double-bill of THE BEGUILED, Thomas Cullinan's source novel is a civil-war drama positing a tantalizing scenario where a wounded union soldier fetches up in a southern all-girls' school, nurtured to recovery by the apparently good-willed women but also subjected to temptations from female gazes and one false move, he will go through purgatory of his sorry life.
The 1971 version is directed by Don Siegel, the third of his five collaborations with Clint Eastwood, who plays the Yankee Corporal John McBurney, and is discovered by a 12-year-old Amy (Ferdin, an absorbing talent), to whom he indulges with a peck on her lips, a blatant way to take away a child's first kiss (also pretty provocative by today's regressive yardstick), instantly, what Siegel hammers home to viewers is that he is not a humdinger, and through glimpses of fleeting flashback interleaved into the narrative, John emerges as a congenital liar, flippant and manipulative, currying favor from his petticoat accompany to slough from a possible fall of incarceration, whether it is Miss Marsha (Page), the headmistress of the seminary school, Edwina (Hartman), the virginal teacher to whom he claims his attraction, a nubile 17-year-old student Carol (Ann Harris), who is sexually active, even the slave Hallie (Mercer, a defiant soul hampered by her identity), cannot evade his come-ons.
The advent of a hot-blooded albeit bedridden male inevitably causes an erotic disruption among the exclusive distaff clique, whose members are circumspectly secluded from the battlefield merely outside their perimeter and sexually repressed, for pert, callow girls, they are inclined to project John as a perfect specimen of their untested sexual allure versus the opposite sex, in the cases of Edwina and Carol, one is the prudish committed type and the other is a wanton nymphet. But the most complex character amongst them is no doubt Miss Marsha, whose incest past and subliminal lesbian proclivity get a full treatment in the audacious script and visual presentation, the latter is even coalesced with a flagrant religious connotation to soup up the film's maverick idiom. When the crunches arrives, a man's conceit in his potency is punished by blunt castration and signifies a rude wakening of the priapic worship.
On top of his virile stallion credence, Clint Eastwood imbues a cunning, almost overweening facade which audience isn't familiar with, not cut from the same cloth from his hard-boiled tough-guy legend. Geraldine Page, emboldened by her matriarchal gravitas and demanding onus, doesn't shy away from any extraneous intrusion (the Union and the Confederacy alike) and builds a palpably beguiling tension through the mind games she plays with Eastwood yet holds the rein from stem to stern in unyielding resolution of taking the escalating situation in her own hands. Elizabeth Hartman, the fragile Oscar-nominated actress whose premature demise was a harrowing tragedy ripe for cinematic transposition, brings about something equally tangible and visceral as she is bedeviled by the discord between a man's promise and his action, but still holds out the last remaining benevolence out of her own impressionable nature.
Crowned BEST DIRECTOR in Cannes, Sofia Coppola's remake is an aesthetically beguiling psychological intrigue, superbly recreates a mystical Gothic quaintness in the closing days of the civil war entrapped within the terrain of a majestic mansion of antebellum south, which certainly is a scintillating upgrade from the 1971 version's sepia retro flair.
But story-wise, Sofia's script not only eviscerates the role of Hallie (which is a double-edged sword since she claims that out of the respect of this sensitive issue, she doesn't want to tread lightly, but also can be easily accused of racially insensitive), but also leaves no allusion of all the taboo issues tackled in Siegel's movie, lesbian kiss, incest depravity and of course, that inappropriate kiss between a grown-up man and a teenage girl, are outright sanitized, and in fact, the whole story has been strenuously internalized, for instance, John's transgression, where is given a plausible justification in Siegel's film, is carried out in a slipshod manner, indicating that it is nothing less than a spur of horniness.
Atmospherical over dramatic, it is beyond reproach that Coppola opts to tell the allegory with her own agent, but unfortunately, the resultant impact doesn't meet up with expectation, especially when juxtaposed with its far more entrancing antecedent. Nicole Kidman intrepidly takes the mantle from Ms. Page, and actualizes an extremely sensual sponge-washing scene with Colin Farrell's less forthcoming and more sympathetic portrayal of a soldier turns paraplegic when he is subjected to an ambiguous retribution out of the necessity of saving his life. Kirsten Dunst and Elle Fanning don't make a splash in the shoes of Hartman and Ann Harris respectively, save Oona Laurence, whose Amy, precisely captures a child's malleable mentality.
So, the jury is out, the remake is humbled by the original, which is quite a shocker because on the paper, Coppola's feminine sensitivity seems to be more adept to parse this age-old gender ax battle than an action-inclined Mr. Siegel, again there is no sure thing in the film industry, and that is exactly why it keeps us intrigued every time.
"The Beguiled" is certainly unusual - but rewarding - Clint Eastwood fare. It's an extremely sordid melodrama that dips its toes a little into the horror genre. It's extremely well acted, stylishly made - with Clints' frequent collaborator Don Siegel in the directors' chair - and often sexy and sinister in equal measure. It's nice to see Clint take chances like this with his projects, but then he's always been a very interesting leading man. (Another Clint vehicle that's somewhat in this vein is 1984s' "Tightrope".) The period recreation is sound, and there are also doses of sex and gore in this film that earns its R rating.
Clint plays Yankee officer John McBurney, severely wounded during the latter days of the Civil War. He's discovered by Amy (Pamelyn Ferdin), a child who escorts him back to her girls' school. The staff, led by Martha (Geraldine Page), agree to keep him there basically for the purpose of nursing him back to health before he can be surrendered to Rebel troops and taken to prison. However, Johns' arrival in this female setting is the trigger for an escalating series of ugly incidents as the male stranger cons his way into the hearts of some of the ladies.
Clint is impressive as he puts a smarmy and self-serving spin on his screen charisma. Page and Elizabeth Hartman likewise impressed this viewer with their takes on these vulnerable characters. The child actresses are all good without being overly cutesy. Jo Ann Harris is the sexpot teenager Carol, and Darleen Carr the rigid Doris. Mae Mercer is able to play her slave character of Hallie with dignity, and she really holds her own in confrontations with Clint. Ferdin is appealing in the role of the girl who gets the ball rolling in terms of plot. Melody Thomas Scott (of 'The Young and the Restless' fame) is another of the girls; character actor Matt Clark has a small role.
Highly memorable stuff, with very quick flashback cuts that add to the somber quality of this tale by Thomas Cullinan.
Back Before Clint Eastwood succumbed to Over-Adulation and Unwarranted Praise He did His Best Work under the Tutelage of Good Director's like Sergio Leone and Don Siegel. Here between the Spaghetti Westerns and Dirty Harry came this Underseen and Under-appreciated Oddball Film.
A Sexy, Gothic, Horror Story set in the Civil War about a Wounded Soldier taken In by an All Girl's School who becomes the Center of Attention and the Outlet for Repressed Sexual Desires. Eastwood Plays the Villainous Viper for all its worth and Manipulates the Females Stroking Libido after Libido until All are Under His Spell. Or is it the Other Way Around?
This is a Disturbing and Daring Film that still Resonates and Repulses Today. A Forgotten Film that was a Flop among the more Categorical Output from Clint at the Time. It's an Art Film and has a Distinctive European Flavor.
The Movie Plays on the Edge from the very Beginning and it is an Ensemble of Effective Acting from All involved. Even Eastwood Stretching His ability to the limit Succeeds as His Lack of Talent is always Pulling Him back. That's a Testament to the Power of the Story and His Co-Stars.
Overall, a Very Distinctive One of a Kind for Eastwood, and even Director Don Siegel Stretches to make this a Unique Experience. Siegel says its His Favorite Directorial Effort. One can See why. It is so Demanding and Off Beat and Everyone involved Came Together to make this a Cunning and Crafty Picture. It is an Unsung and Obscure Gem.
Working my way through a boxset of the eight films Eastwood made with Universal in his early film career, I expected from The Beguiled a good quality western drama in the vein of the actor's other collaborations with director Don Siegel.
Slowly dying from his wounds, Yankee soldier John McBurney is found and rescued by a schoolgirl who has him taken to her boarding school where he is tended to by her classmates and the school's staff, who eventually decide not to turn him in to the Confederate soldiers under whose watch they reside.
Set toward the conclusion of the Civil War, The Beguiled is, if we insist upon generic classification, more a war film than a western. That said, it is far removed for being simply a war film. Immediately unearthing the idea of wartime loyalty to one's cause, the film examines the moral conflict engendered by the women's knowledge that McBurney will be killed if handed over. They are all loyal to the Confederate cause, but are uncomfortable with the thought that a man's death will be on their hands. This is not, however, the film's primary thematic concern, nor even one which is explored beyond its base dilemma. The issue of sexual appetites and the implications when they are not satiated is that on which the film focuses, portraying to us that of three of the film's female characters. Eastwood's character early identifies his power within this house despite his handicap, his phallic presence key to his manipulation of the sexually charged women who each wishes to have him in their bed. Using his masculinity as a weapon, he engages in a variety of mind games, attempting to prey upon the exasperated libidos; hoping to manipulate them so that he may make his escape. The film explores the issue of gender politics, the ideas of masculinity and femininity, the danger of sexual repression. Surprising enough in itself, it is another aspect of this film which will ensure its ability to be instantly and vividly recalled in the minds of all who see it. The third of these explorations—that of sexual repression—leads to the film's shockingly escalating horror aspects. A Gothic drama by its conclusion more than anything else, the film tilts toward scenes more terrifying than many self-proclaimed "horror films" in its latter half, pulling out all the stops to completely frighten and baffle the audience with darkness matched only in its comprehensiveness by the darkened wonders of Bruce Surtees' cinematography. McBurney's eventual fate as he becomes the emasculated prisoner of these sex-starved women is truly shocking, in every sense of the word. Though the film builds toward this all along, it softens none of the blow, leaving us wide-eyed and drop-jawed.
One of the most surprising narrative progressions I have ever seen in a film, and one of the most quietly harrowing along with it, The Beguiled is a traumatisingly dark drama that is a shocking output from all concerned. Benefiting from this greatly, it is a simultaneously exasperating, entertaining, and electrifying experience that poses some deeply interesting thematic questions about sexuality and violence.
Let us assume for a moment that you haven't experimented with the psychotropic mushroom and you're wondering about the so called bad experience and just how something like that might play itself out Well go ahead and pop in a fresh copy of The Beguiled. See, with film you have your clean trips (Solaris and anything else directed by Andrei Tarkovsky), whack trips, i.e. the experience-from-which-you-never-recover (Sweet Movie and El Topo), and you're bad organic trips, a category specifically reserved for a film like The Beguiled which is the sort of content those keen writers at the Times who made all the right decisions with their lives and graduated from the Harvard Department of English refer to as "hallucinogenic in tone." By the third act of this Don Siegel directed movie, you may not exactly observe that your two lead-heavy hands have become shrunken and assume all the characteristics of a burrowing insectivorous mammal, nor will you exactly fall under the suspicion that your spine has achieved the same sinuous shape and knotty texture of a pomaceous fruit baring tree incalculable in age, but you will feel something.
In 1970, when this film was filmed, most Americans were looking for an anodyne for their collective pain, a movie like The Graduate perhaps, a lot of world-endism was going on and, of course you had the nightmare break down of war in Vietnam. What you get with The Beguiled, banal drug metaphors aside, is a screenplay adapted from a novel by a guy who at least for the moment wanted to be known as Grimes Grice, and direction from the director who helped bring about the work and career of Sam Peckinpah. In the Beguiled, Donny Siegel, born in 12, Chicago, Il., less than 45 years after The Great Fire is showing his attempt at grappling with all that contemporary cultural madness of the early 1970's in the form of a classical film artifact. The Beguiled is an incredible film and an outstanding contribution to the cinematographic arts in almost every aspect: the shooting, editing, direction and story are all fantastic, and you're not likely to see anything else like it. Undoubtedly, a sinister film, its effects, as I've said, both dizzying and adulterating; frankly it's hard to believe would ever Universal attached its name to this picture, but you are going to see upon viewing some of the sweet, sweet camera moves, and cinematographer Bruce Surtees exploiting every bit of dark myth you harbor in your head about the American Plantation South, conflating beauty with evil in every location shot. Clint Eastwood, needless to say, has never been like this. Old Clint, he moves at instant from coy to livid, his eyes like two Archimedean spirals in medium close up. The rest of the cast is equally exacting and uncanny.
This Beguiled will never make the AFI 100 in my lifetime, but that doesn't stop me from positing that it's one of the best American synch sound films ever made. While most people catalogue it as a western, to include the folks at The Western Channel, The Beguiled is a problem because you don't really know what it is: A sort of war movie? A drama? Psychological thriller? Maybe the answer to all those emotionally wrought Noir films starring Kirk Douglas? I actually call this piece a horror film because when my old man, who likes to kick back with the cheap, gratuitous violence projected in entertainments like The Wire, saw that high angle medium long shot of Geraldine Page wrapping a tourniquet around Clint's bloody leg, Pa was pretty quick to suggest we watch something else like the Outback Bowl, right before he absconded to another room. My advice: watch this one, and make sure it is on a very large screen, preferably run on that DPL home theater projector you're contemplating. I would put The Beguiled right on order along with that important consumer purchase, turn the overheads out, throw some cinematic light up on the big blank wall, and try not to lose your grip because just like Norman Bates, "We all go a little mad sometimes," even the beguiled.
It took me years to finally catch this gem of a film and it was worth the wait. In nearly all of his films Clint always plays the hero. Be it hero, anti-hero or avenging hero. In this film he is pure villain and he plays it well.
As a wounded union soldier he is brought into a confederate girls school by the students and teachers to heal. Soon after he begins to seduce the ladies no matter their age and some are quite young. He also plays upon their jealousies and pits them against each other. In the end you are never so happy to see Clint die a terrible death.
That is what makes this film such a gem. Clint has never done any other film like it and after seeing this film you wish he had. He plays the role of the villain so well it will make you wonder why he never did any more films like it. It also explains why the film is not seen very often. Most people don't want to see Clint as the villain and with Dirty Harry being released shortly after this film it has become a hidden gem. If you are a Clint Eastwood fan you owe it to yourself to see this film. You might not like what you will see but you won't soon forget it.
Brilliant film with Clint Eastwood as a wounded Civil War soldier who receives treatment at an all girls boarding school. However, he becomes an object of lust and rage amongst the woman, particularly head mistress Geraldine Page. Rich characterizations, a bone chilling flawless (or nearly so) performance by Page, a wicked sense of humor, a magnificently constructed script, masterful direction highlight this fascinating, complicated film.
Rated R; Sexual Situations, Violence, and Strong Adult Themes.