Monday, July 15, 2013

The Beguiled

The Beguiled Directed By Don Siegel. Starring Clint Eastwood. (1971).
   The story involves a wounded Confederate soldier who stumbles onto a cryptic boarding school inhabited by sex starved ultra religious women. Eastwood trusted Don Siegel enough to play against his macho type to quote Eastwood as a "vulnerable loser" at the mercy of little girls and a cruel vindictive school run by Geraldine Page. 
   Right from the beginning, there are subtle elements of pedophilia (which later evolve into supreme hatred and betrayal of a small girl’s early confused feelings of love for this wounded older man). Amy played by Sid & Marty Kroft and Toolbox Murders' actress Pamela Ferdin finds Eastwood bleeding and stuck in a tree. Ferdin does a extraordinary job in this role. Anyone who finds a 12 years old girl and says "How Old? Just old enough for kissing" has got a hankering for jailbait and should be well acquainted with Chris Hansen.  
We brought wine coolers and no hidden cameras
   Eastwood plays John McBurney (or Mc-Bee) a wolfish sexual threat to a virginal school bursting with sexually confused and yet secretly powerful woman. The fact that he's a Yankee makes him more irresistible to the girls because he's a mysterious invader (some of them wonder if he has a tail). 
   Miss Martha (Geraldine Page) has an incestuous past with her brother (shown through a few split second lurid flashbacks). There's an underlying message of Northerners are nothing but insatiable beasts clamoring to rape the first thing in sight (I guess they are half right). It speaks volumes about Southern judgement and extreme denial of their own sexual repression and like my Humanities teacher wisely said "If you point 1 finger in accusation, there are three pointing back at yourself". Amy the little girl, cares for Mc- Bee and loves him on a misguided adolescent level, she's never allowed to understand her feelings as they go from innocent to a frenzy of traumatic hatred. Mc-Bee accidentally smashing her turtle helps push her into the direction of poisoning the creep!   
   Elizabeth Hartman (The Secret Of Nimh, Patch of Blue) plays the fragile Edwina, Eastwood tries to manipulate her, but he also has his pick of the litter! 
   Miss Martha is afraid of sexual feelings stirring within her and shuts them off like a tourniquet, burying them with petty vengeance and Bible passages.     
   The film delves into straight male fantasy as all the horny females secretly visit him late at night, leading to an eventual orgy, but it never gets to that cheap level without involving Eastwood's punishment. The house slave played by Mae Mercer (Frogs, Pretty Baby) is the only one who sees through Mc-Bee's bullshit and calls him out on it. 
  There's a moment toward the end when Miss Martha has a creepily religious threesome sex dream that gave me the heebie jeebies! There's this eerie painting that resembles the positioning of the three sex partners.  
Just having another erotic hellish nightmare dream
   For the crime of submitting to a young blonde's advances in the middle of the night he receives an unnecessary amputated leg! This table top surgery by way of text book instructions and a rusty hacksaw is a fate worse than death! 
Bitch! You cut my favorite leg!
   The Beguiled is a sleeper that is more rewarding than you'd think and it gets more interesting with repeated viewings.The boarding school reminds me of The Night Of The Hunter (only waay more twisted) and the religious fever dream reminds me of The Devils.
   This was reviewed in Deep Red by Steve Bissette as a "Sleeper" in issue # 5 along with Robert Enrico's In The Midst Of Life (1961). This magazine has always fed my starvation for art house gems along with underrated rare 70's horror worth checking out, anything the Deep Red writers mentioned is always a must see. Even though this is a "Non-Horror" film, it's worth revisiting for fans of Don Siegel's career. Supreme ignorance, poison mushrooms and murder are elements of true horror, in my mind at least!
Kindertrauma also did an excellent review.

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