One of Clint Eastwood's most offbeat films, 1971's THE BEGUILED broke plenty of rules in the early seventies and died at the box office. Time's been kind to this quiet, Gothic/civil war drama.
Eastwood is Union soldier John McBurney, shot by the confederates and left for dead. Young schoolgirl Amy (Pamelyn Ferdin, who you'll recognize from every popular 70's TV show) runs back to the girl's school she attends and they take the soldier in to save his life.
The school for girls is run by Martha with an iron hand in a giant Louisiana bayou mansion. Geraldine Page (Hondo, The Trip to Bountiful) is excellent as Martha, all repressed sexuality, longing and authority, tightly wrapped and ready to explode.
As McBurney slowly begins to recover, the older girls fall into two camps. Some are horrified they are hiding an enemy soldier, the others find themselves drawn to the only man that's been in the house in recent memory.
Elizabeth Hartman is the school's teacher Edwina, who finds herself falling in love with McBurney.
Eastwood creates an interesting character, not quite a victim and certainly not a hero.
Audiences of the day were not ready for Eastwood to be this flawed, but he and director Don Siegel make bold choices and commit 100%.
The two would re-team later the same year to much greater box office success with "Dirty Harry", which would break ground of its own in creating another (more audience friendly) anti-hero in Harry Callahan.
Siegel often told reporters this was his favorite film he ever made.
THE BEGUILED is ahead of it's time and goes down a very dark path to its conclusion. With graphic violence, predatory sexuality and a strangely effective music score by Lalo Schifrin (Mission Impossible, Bullitt) this Civil War get drama is a quirky mix.
It's an odd entry in Eastwood's legacy and one of the first signs of the challenging films and roles that Eastwood would choose in the nearly 50 years since.
Pitched by Universal Studios to audiences as an Eastwood action film, it was a box office failure. There's very little action in this slow-burn character study, but plenty of conflict.
The Beguiled gets a B.
Remade by Sofia Coppola in 2017, starring Colin Farrell in the Eastwood role.