on November 30, 2003
The Beguiled is one of the most beautiful films I have ever seen,contributing to my early love of cinema,and sadly remaining underrated to this day.
While it is hard to pigeonhole the film into one specific genre, be it a thriller or a psychological drama,it is one of the very few films that without the use of blood and gore,manages to be very disturbing and violent.A raw and primitive violence that is directed more at the viewer's mind and psyche.
Don Siegel is one of the best American directors,who like Sam Peckinpah,understood the meaning of this violence and did not shy away from showing it without tantalizing the 'voyeur' in his audience.
His collaboration with Clint Eastwood is one of the most successful in cinema..(Dirty Harry, Coogan's Bluff, Escape from Alcatraz, Two Mules for Sister Sarah)..And with the Beguiled he managed to direct an original film that had the best performances his star had to date,(a transitional role in Eastwood's career, in between the westerns of Leone, and the toughness of Harry Calahan.)
The whole mood of the film has this creepy and sinsiter atmosphere that appears quite subtle on the surface,yet as your delve deeper,it slowly unleashes much darker and well hidden forces.
It is the story of a wounded Yanky soldier(Clint Eastwood)evading capture in the south during the civil war,finds refuge in an all girl boarding school.The headmistress (the geart Geraldine Page)takes him in and provides him with a sanctuary and care that befits her Christian duties and sensibilities.Yet this stranger awakens many feelings in the house: curiosity,jealousy,sexual fantasies, up to the will and determination to murder.
The increased confidence of the recuperating soldier in manipulating the sexual vulnerablity of these girls and their headmistress,goes hand in hand with the change that occur within them,from gentle and virtuous to cold and calculating.
I liked the fact that the contrast between the raging war outside and the serene and peaceful sanctuary inside turns to be only an illusion.
I liked too the fact that despite the rift that the soldier caused directly and indirectly among the girls,they at the end link their fates and bond together,like they carefully did in the face of war, even if this means getting rid of the 'disturbance' that turned their world upside down.
I also loved the fact that ultimately the message of the film is about what a person is capable of doing in certain circumstances, and how a ideal world can hide many deep hidden frustrations that,pushing the right buttons, can be as menacing and deadly as any war.
What is quite interesting too, is how a deeply religious environment and person, can also hide strong sexual desires and energy that are truly haunting.One particularily powerful scene, among many, is the sexual threesome dream that Page has,an unrestrained and perverse passion mixed with religious guilt: an explosive mixture.
The Beguiled reflects a time when directors had the artistic freedom and clout to make the film they wanted.The original script had a happy ending, but Siegel opted to change it to its darker conclusion, something very few studios would allow these days.
The Beguiled is a powerful movie that on no accounts should be missed.A journey into the darkest recesses of the human soul that you will not easily forget.
on October 27, 2003
When I was a kid growing up in the '70s, I thought "The Beguild" was one really cool movie. The two things I remember most from my childhood viewing of this film were Clint Eastwood's reaction to his amateur surgery and the little school girl's last line about the difference between good and bad mushrooms.Over thirty years later, I rewatched this film on DVD and I'm still fascinated by this creepy, yet highly erotic, southern-gothic tale.The story takes place in the South during the American Civil War. A little girl (Pamelyn Ferdin) is hunting in the woods for wild mushrooms and finds the badly injured Union soldier, Cpl. John McBurney (Clint Eastwood). She takes him back to her small, all-girls boarding school, where the Head Mistress (Geraldine Page) decides to let the soldier recover from his injuries, rather then immediately turn him over to the Confederate authorities.As McBurney starts to get stronger and healthier he precedes to start sexually seducing and manipulating all of the female staff and some of the students.But is he the one manipulating them or is it really the other way around? Sexual longing, jealousy and paranoia seem to be the main subjects being taught at this school.Things get so crazy (and erotic), that one really disturbing night, McBurney finds himself the subject of some table top surgery at the hands of the head mistress! Was the Head Mistress really trying to save his life or was she just being sexually vindictive? McBurney dosn't like what the ladies have done to him. He attempts to regain charge of the school and the situation, but the women serve the soldier up his just desserts in a very memorable and eerie ending! Long time Director, Don Siegel ("Dirty Harry", "Coogan's Bluff") has crafted a tense and claustrophobic film, that can really get under your skin.The film reminds me of one of those old 'EC' comic books (you know the ones your mother didn't want you warping your minds on...), where the bad guy eventually recieves some creepy, unworldly retribution for his misdeeds. But who actually is the bad guy in this film? Eastwood? The Head Mistress? The other women? I think the movie leaves this question open for interpretation. The acting in the movie is superb! Eastwood breaks out of his "Man with No Name' persona and really gives us an interesting characterization. We never know, what he is going to do next.Veteran, Broadway actresses Geraldine Page and Elizabeth Hartman both give some great,'over the top', scenery chewing performances. I love watching both their characters (the Head Mistress & the young teacher) seem to crumble in hysteria right before the viewer's eyes!The DVD to the film is pretty bares bones with little in extras (just a trailer). The picture is O.K. but the sound remastering is awful. But don't let that stop you from seeing this southern-gothic gem! If you want a tense, suspenseful film, which just might keep you up at night, then I highly recommend "The Beguild".
on September 25, 2003
This review refers to the Universal DVD edition of "The Beguiled"....
Think of Eastwood, and you think of his cool, tough characters.Harry Callahan, Josey Wales, and The Man With No Name, are the first we envision. Cpl. John McBurney is probably not at the top of that list. Yet, this is a film in which Clint really shines, and one that will hold you from start to finish with it's superb Direction by Don Siegal("Dirty Harry"/"Two Mules For Sister Sara").
The rest of the cast is also outstanding in this psychological drama set in the south during the civil war. Cpl. McBurney(Eastwood) is an injured Union soldier, discovered and nursed back to health by the residents of an all girls school.The first impulse of the Head Mistress, Miss Farnsworth(Geraldine Page) was to turn him over to the Confederate Army, but Mr. McBee, as they have so affectionately come to call him, has charmed nearly all the members of the household from Miss Farnsworth, to the 12 year old Amy(played brillantly by Pamelyn Ferdin),leading each to believe that they are the one he loves. As each disovers the truth, they begin some mind games of their own. Has Clint finally met his match in this tale of jealousy and revenge. Find out in this very different film for Clint...no guns or badges to get him through this one.
The cast includes Elizabeth Hartman, Jo Ann Harris and Melody Thomas(Scott).
Filmed in Louisiana, the picture of this 1970 film is clear and the colors lush in this transfer to DVD. It is presented in anamorphic widescreen(1.85:1). The sound in Dolby 2 Channel Mono, is decent but Mono is Mono!(I probably would have gone 5 stars if not for that). Stereo surround(at least) would be much better.There are some production notes, Cast and Filmmaker Bios, a theatrical trailer and may be viewed with English captions or with Spanish subtitles.
A must see for Clint Fans....enjoy...Laurie
on September 16, 2003
When a badly wounded Union soldier (Clint Eastwood) is reluctantly taken into a southern girls school, he finds that he must act in a calm and cool manner around the inhabitants in order to keep from being discovered by Confederates. As he falls in love with two of the girls, he finds that the immoral woman in charge of the school (Geraldine Page) is attracted to him. Jealousy and tension rises between everyone in the school until the drama catches up with the man in the most horrific ways possible.
This increasingly unpleasant film is executed subtly, and gives a relevant lesson to go by in life: Never underestimate. The film holds up surprisingly well with a fine performance from Clint Eastwood, until the shockingly cruel conclusion.
If you liked this film, the best idea for another film you may like is either "Unfaithful" or "Leaving Las Vegas"; it's the best I can think of at the moment. But be warned, this is not an ordinary film, despite its similarities to "Gone With The Wind" and "The Sound Of Music."
Overall rating: 4.5 stars
Rated R for a sexual encounter with nudity as well as some other lurid sexual situations, brief violence, some profanity, and mature themes.
on February 25, 2002
Clint Eastwood gives a rare "arthouse" performance in this decidedly off-beat Civil War tale. Clint is the wily fox trapped in the proverbial henhouse as a wounded Union soldier discovered in the woods and nursed back to health by the members of a Southern girls' school. Director Don Siegel (who played Scorcese to Eastwood's DeNiro in a series of 70's collaborations) was not usually associated with making "art" movies, but this one came the closest. Mostly somber and Gothic in tone, with a dash of black comedy thrown in (especially in the scenes where Eastwood gleefully manipulates and seduces various teachers and students). Of course, the chauvinistic soldier eventually gets his due (Stephen King style), but it's an interesting ride along the way. Geraldine Page leads the excellent supporting cast in top form. The depiction of the girls' mass sexual panic amid a claustrophobic, fever dream atmosphere recalls films like "Picnic At Hanging Rock" or "Black Narcissus". Eastwood's boldest performance features a scene in the opening moments that very few "movie stars" would even touch...where he kisses a 12 year old girl in a somewhat lustful manner; repellent behavior, yes, but essential to establishing the character. In other words, don't expect another typical Eastwood shoot-'em up!
on September 29, 2001
A wretched movie. Should have been titled "The Scorned". A sick and loathful story of emotionally stunted, sexually repressed women ( mostly young ) in a treacherous competition for one manÃ¢ï¿½ï¿½s affection. Deceit abound as the selfless young women put to the test their nascent sexual prowess. However, once a sense of rejection is felt, they will stop at nothing as Kidnapping, Torture, Mutilation, and Murder becomes condoned behavior, and mere inconvenience, in an attempt to force their will. I would compare this to "Henry: Portrait of A Serial Killer" as the darkest movie IÃ¢ï¿½ï¿½ve ever seen. Men will find this movie very objectionable, short of those with severe masochistic tendencies. As the movie depicts females as inherently satanistic, I doubt many women will like it either. Although Eastwood gives a very credible performance, the very premise of the movie is downright painful. The rest of the acting is not worth mentioning. Unless your a member of the Lorena Bobbitt fan club, I recommend you spare yourself the anguish of watching this movie.
on July 7, 2001
The Beguiled caught me off guard. We rented it knowing only that it took place during the Civil War, it was made during Eastwood's peak years, and that he had sideburns that looked out of place but really cool. I expected an okay movie that would be The Man With No Name kicks butt in the Civil War, but instead I was completely amazed. I'm glad I went into it knowing little about it, because I just got more and more impressed and into the movie as it went on.
Eastwood plays a 'Yank' officer, Corporal John McBurney (or "Mac") who is wounded and taken in by some sort of boarding school for girls in a remote country location. The school is actually a Southern mansion that reminded me of the Haunted Mansion at Disneyland from the outside. The residents are all female and include a headmistress with a pretty sick secret in her past, a black 'servant' who turns out to be nobody's slave, and several teenage girls. Also, since all the men have been off at war for awhile, they are all pretty sexually frustrated. To keep them from turning him over to the south, where he will almost certainly die of his wounds in a miserable jail, Eastwood's character tries to charms all of them. With some of them, he knows how to play their weak points against them. This unfortunately works a little bit too well, because at least 3 of the women end up having the hots for him so bad that they end up in various stages of fooling around with him. Mac gets WAY more than he bargained for, with more tragic, ugly, and terrible results than you could imagine. Anyone who sleeps with 3 women living in the same city let alone the same house should know that if you are fooling around with 3 women living under the same roof, sooner or later they're going to compare stories, and the whole thing will end up with several women very, very mad at you. Anyway, I knew that at some point he'd get caught with his pants down, and someone would probably get violent at some point, but the way it happens, the timing of it, and the results were all completely unpredictable and stunning.
I don't want to say more about the plot too much other than to set it up, because the best moments for me came when a character said or did the last thing I expected them to -either that, or something that I thought might happen did, but with the last character I expected to do it being involved. Eastwood does do his tough guy thing, but there's way more sexuality, not all of it pleasant, thrown in than usual, and his character is definitely more than 'The Man With No Name'. And boy, if you thought his other movies had some tough, cold-blooded characters in them...you ain't seen nothing yet.
It was only till hours a after I saw the movie that I realized the category it fell into was Southern Gothic...probably one of the best and most powerful I've ever seen. I think this is the only CE movie that made my husband laugh, comment on how cool Eastwood looked and acted, gasp in shock,and cringe to the point of actually covering his eyes all at once in one viewing. I had the same reaction.I'm dying to comment more on the plot developments, the characters, and the moments that blew me away the most, but I don't want to spoil it for anyone, because this is a movie best viewed for maximum effect when you know less about those things.
The Beguiled was way ahead of its time , especially when it comes to strong women, or black female characters that are even stronger.It also probably didn't do as well because the audience was used to seeing Eastwood play a hero (and definitely not used to seeing him as an invalid in one way or another for so much of the movie) and also because audiences wanted a Hollywood ending. I think women who don't especially care for CE films in general would probably find themselves enjoying this one.
There are several shocking things that happen, and enough sex and violence to definitely make it R-rated- this is NOT a movie for kids or the faint of heart. The acting, the story, and the dialogue are all so amazing and original, and it's intense, suspenseful, and brilliant. I highly recommend this lesser known, underrated gem. And yes, definitely get it on DVD or video because if it runs on anything other than cable, I'm sure that many scenes that are important to the plot and have great impact to the characters would probably be snipped. You'll just have to see it for yourself.
on June 13, 2001
The Beguiled can be catalogued with other quirky tales wrought by the likes of Tennessee Williams and William Faulkner. Behind the South's veil of honor lurks secrecy and seething sexuality. While Williams and Faulkner might be considered more interested in the personal, The Beguiled weds that emphasis with a social context and its impingement upon the inhabitants of a southern boarding school for girls.
Set in the rapidly declining Antebellum South, the film makes good use of history and its parallels with the motivations of its characters. Union soldiers press forward into undiscovered territory, intruding and ultimately violating an insular world of social convention and interior reality. Indeed, Eastwood eventually ingratiates himself upon the inhabitants of the girls school, whose residents are entertained and eventually repulsed by his sexual advances.
The Southern sense of honor is violated as Eastwood beds down with one of the girls and penetrates the cloistered world of manners, meaning and sexual tension. Capturing the spoils of war is, however, complicated by the personal life of the headmistress. As the Blue and Grey might have once been considered brothers in arms but are now enemies, the sacred trust between kin was also apparerently violated by the headmistress and her brother, a role Eastwood unwittingly comes to play.
Unlike the outcome seen in the Civil War, Eastwood's advances are cut off as he pays the price in a scene with strong Freudian undertones. Wounded but not forgotten, Eastwood is the lingering reminder of lost honor and innocence. The school's inhabitants try to rewrite the past, and so return to childhood's lost idyll, but in blending play with brutality they become murderers, proving one can never truly return home.
An inverse of the characterization seen in Eastwood's "man with no name" series, The Beguiled captures a scenic and personal depth until then not seen in films of The South. Here the plot is less obtuse and Eastwood's motivations more explicit than in his work with Sergio Leone -- where silence speaks volumes -- or in his own film, High Plains Drifter, which nonetheless opened Eastwood's character up through flashbacks.
on June 17, 2000
I don't know what it is, but we in the South just love a movie about the Civil War. It does not matter whether it is historically accurate or politically correct; if it takes place down here, we eat it up.
Well, "The Beguiled" is set in the South, so that's its first plus. Secondly, it has Clint Eastwood as a Union soldier "rescued," so to speak by a household headed by Geraldine Page. And third, the rest of the residents are young women, enamored of Eastwood.
Eastwood's character takes advantage of the innocence and adoration of the manor's occupants. His John McBurney is not an evil man, but a flawed one, at best. Eastwood does a good job at conveying that fact. Unfortunately his actions have a devastating result.
Page, like contemporary Coleen Dewhurst, was one of stage and screen's best. She is perfection in her role as Martha Farnsworth. Elizabeth Hartman, who never had much of a Hollywood career, is quite good, also. Mae Mercer, as the maid, has some interesting exchanges with Eastwood.
The remaining cast is made up largely of young unknowns. They do admirable work as the objects of Eastwood's machinations and desires.
on March 8, 2000
During the American civil war, wounded Yankee soldier, John McBurney is rescued on the verge of death by a teenage girl from a Confederate boarding school. She manages to get him back to the school, and at first the all-female staff and pupils are scared. As he starts to recover, one by one he seduces the sexually repressed women and the atmosphere becomes filled with jealousy, deceit and brutal revenge.
Eccentric, offbeat melodrama combining the conventions of both Western and Grand Guignol chiller, and directed as if it were an art movie, this is one of Eastwood and Siegel's strangest collaborations. Beautifully shot (especially the nightmarishly skewed first person camera perspective of that famous amputation scene, and chiaroscuro lighting effects [such deep, dark shadows]}, carefully paced, this is a haunting, elegant work that seems to have influenced the much later - and inferior - Misery.
No disc extras as such, but excellent production notes, and a crystal-clear transfer with well-preserved colour separation make this an essential DVD purchase.
Now pass the mushrooms...