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RELEASED: 1971, Cert. X
RUNNING TIME: Approx. 105 mins
DIRECTOR/PRODUCER: Don Siegel
SCREENPLAY: Albert Maltz & Irene Kamp
MUSIC: Lalo Schifrin
Clint Eastwood as John McBurney
Geraldine Page as Martha
Jo Ann Harris as Carol
Pamelyn Ferdin as Amy
Elizabeth Hartman as Edwina
Darleen Carr as Doris
Mae Mercer as Hallie
Melody Thomas Scott as Abigail
Peggy Drier as Lizzie
Patricia Mattick as Janie
FILM ONLY REVIEW
Adapted from Thomas Cullinan's novel which I assume bears the same name, The Beguiled begins during the American Civil War, with wounded Yankee soldier John McBurney being found by a young girl, Amy, who is a pupil at a nearby small boarding school for girls somewhere in the deep south.
Amy manages to help McBurney to the school, where he is at first dubiously looked after by Edwina, the headmistress, ably assisted by the other girls together with Hallie, the school's black maid.
As the girls gradually get used to having McBurney in their care and he makes a rather speedy recovery, each one in her own individual way becomes attracted to him, flirting with him and generally leading him to believe that more than nursing him back to health is on the cards.
McBurney is both disturbed and delighted at all this female attention, but things become very difficult for everybody as jealousy amongst the girls runs high.
I went into watching The Beguiled more or less blind, because although I'd heard of it before, I'd no idea what it was about.
The initial scene is set quite well, with the wide-eyed 12-year-old Amy taking pity on McBurney who she spots whilst she is out gathering mushrooms. From the point where he enters the tiny little school out in the backwoods, I thought the film was going to become tediously predictable, but it actually turned out to be the opposite.
At first, all of the acting seems merely average, but as the storyline progresses, each of the absolute main cast members come out of their shells and do themselves proud, particularly Clint Eastwood - who drops both his taciturn cowboy image from the 'Dollars' films and his jaded cop image from the 'Dirty Harry/Magnum Force' films, gradually building up into ultimately giving quite a more than passable performance as the lustful, yet in some ways victimised McBurney. Elizabeth Hartman gives a compelling performance as Edwina, the rather strange headmistress who holds some dark secrets from her past, which now and again threaten to rear their heads. I also loved Mae Mercer as Hallie, the plain-speaking, forthright and sensible black maid....particularly when she was singing some truly wonderful blues to herself as she worked.
The music, although noticeable, is largely unmemorable, it being light-ish orchestral in nature, and I don't think it particularly lends anything to the overall atmosphere, although it isn't bad.
Whilst I was watching The Beguiled - which incidentally is a very easy film to follow - I was curious as to why it had been given an X rating, but as the story unfolded, the answer became clear.
Although this is a sexually charged film, and 'the deed' is suggested at, the levels of luridness are rather low-key, but it is the grey areas and Edwina's not too well-disguised secrets which provide the seriously adult content of this film. As far as the elements which make up what could be viewed as little twists and turns in the storyline are concerned, they happen in a 'one thing leads to another' way, and I was surprised as each corner was turned, unveiling the unparalleled degrees of spite that some people will practice in order to get even.
This overall is quite a slow-moving film, but the great part about it is that until it really gets underway, the essence of the story is all but totally unpredictable, building up to an interesting crescendo which is cleverly thought out and acted.
After the first part, I did encounter a short stretch in The Beguiled where it could have lost my interest and attention, but I'm glad I continued watching, because there is far more to this film than initially meets the eye and it is quite an unusual story in an equally unusual setting. The character development is also very good, particularly that of headmistress Edwina, whose demeanour slips to the point where she ought to have a bit of explaining to do....to find out what I mean, I recommend you watch the film yourself.
In summary, I was pleasantly surprised by The Beguiled, and may even earmark it for second helpings one day. I'm tempted to call it a psychological drama/thriller, but in reality it probably doesn't go that far....it is an interesting, unusual and mostly very well-acted story which contains more than its fair share of dastardly surprises. It certainly isn't one for the kids though, even bearing in mind that the sexual element is very laid-back and the small amount of violence it contains is extremely tame compared to most modern-day films. I guess it could be Edwina's secret and how it is hinted at which gives The Beguiled its strictly adult theme, together with the concept of a fully-grown man having a group of girls, some of whom are very young, falling in love with him and fantasising about what they'd like to do with him.
The only thing I'd change if I were able to, would be the pace at which the film runs....I'd speed it up a little.
Would I recommend it? Yes!
At the time of writing, The Beguiled can be purchased from Amazon as follows:-
New: from £2.53 to £9.23
Used: only two copies currently available @ £5.62 and £6.00
Some items on Amazon are available for free delivery within the UK, but where this doesn't apply, a £1.26 charge should be added to the above figures.
Thanks for reading!
~~ Also published on Ciao under my CelticSoulSister user name ~~
That is one scary promo for the film of The Beguiled that Dooyoo have reproduced for us here. Try not to let it put you off watching the film, it's actually rather good. Eastwood plays a soldier on the run during the civil war. He's badly wounded, apparently in the middle of nowhere, and then he finds a large house. Now this isn't just a large house, it's a school for young ladies, or at least those whose parents aspire for them to become young ladies. In desperate need, he stumbles in on them and the story begins. This is really a tale about one man among a dozen or so females, who wreaks havoc on their hormone levels. A variety of emotions are expressed through this film by picking up on the differing reasons the women have for being attracted to him. There is the Headmistress, a decidely odd woman (played by Geraldine Paige) who, being of the upper age bracket and a dreadful southern belle type, is low on the hit list that Eastwood makes once he manipulates his powers. Doesn't stop her trying though. Game gal! Then you have the repressed and stubbornly virginal teacher who secretly yearns for the handsome young soldier, but in contrast to her tightly-held-together attitude. She's definitely in with a chance, being pretty and more or less the same age as Eastwood. There's the besotted school girls (although not all, especially as one appears to be about 7), and one little minx in particular who had obviously been sent to the school to try and drag her out of the looming gutter. In amongst all the sexual intrigues and innuendos, you get to see how controlling of the situation Eastwood becomes, to the point of endangering their lives by getting them to cover for him when enemy soldiers pass through the vicinity. Eastwood's character is not very nice at all, in fact he's playing a right cruel bastard to be brutally honest. But you start to get the idea that he has
met his nemesis in this school, and the psychological battle begins. But which of these women will try to win? What do they get as the prize? We get an unexpectedly and hugely enjoyable film. Very atmospheric, excellently observed undertones and well acted throughout. There are some very unsettling scenes involving amputation, and not bad considering how many years later it took for Misery to exploit the same sort of theme whilst doing it real justice. In my opinion, this is one of Eastwood's best films and one that looks to be desperately under-rated. Now get that promo off the screen before it frightens small children or dogs. Or worse, before Gran thinks how nice it looks and it reminds of a pattern she's been saving, and before you know it she's mades a mental note to knit something for Christmas in your size. Well something she THINKS is your size, but you'd have to be the local orangutang to wear it. And she always chooses such naff colours.... kuh... Grandma's eh? Anyway, good film, and I'm off to hide the knitting needles.
Invariably, and inaccurately described as a western, when it is more like a gothic horror than anything else. Eastwood may come from a Civil War milieu, an injured soldier taking refuge in a girl's seminary, but this is a world away from his own post-Civil War picture 'The Outlaw Josie Wales', and he leaves the western behind. The closeted, repressed emotions of the women in the school (including the estimable Geraldine Page) soon hope to find romantic outlets in the male outsider, and Eastwood's character responds by attempting to manipulate the female group to his own ends. Suffice to say, it all goes wrong for his macho machinations in the worst and most symbolic way. It's an enormously odd, eerie and atmospheric film, quite at home with the experimentations of Eastwood's early directorial career ('Play Misty for Me', and his later flirtations with gothic onscreen and off, in 'Tightrope' and 'Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil'). However, it is a bizarre film for the director, Eastwood's frequent collaborator Don Siegel, who spent a long and profitable career making high-quality, dead-straight crime movies and westerns. It's fascinating and very well acted, but not for those expecting a good old-fashioned horse opera.
I saw this film when I was a student nurse and had not yet had the pleasure of witnessing an amputation. A soldier in the civil war, Clint Eastwood gets injured and is kept in a house by some women...not quite like Misery, they didn't have typewriters in those days. The most memorable part of the film is the amputation. His leg gets really gammy, they didn't have antibiotics then either, so he needs to have it off. If you are squeamish this bit is not for you, unless you like the sound of bone being sawed. That part of the film lived with me for a long time. I dreaded ever going in to theatre to watch someone have a limb cut off then have it handed to me. At least the aneathetist had a little more to offer than whiskey!