The Beguiled: Clint in Hothouse Drama

DATELINE: Back to the Original

beguiled

With a remake of The Beguiled (to be reviewed separately soon), the 1970 Thomas Cullinane (a distant relative of ours) novel directed by Sofia Coppola, no one mentions the classic Don Siegel version. It was an unusual role for Clint, under his mentor director Siegel. It was a strange movie under any conditions.

A Civil War Yankee is given refuge at an odd girls’ school in the South where the genteel women are as gothic and grotesque as you’d find in a Bronte novel. Led by Geraldine Page as the head mistress and Elizabeth Hartman as her right-hand man, as it were, you have more sexual tension than suspense. Page’s character may be more than a victim of incest and more than a friend to other women.

In an age of heightened mistreatment of women in Hollywood, this film starts with Eastwood’s character telling a 12-year old girl she is old enough to kiss, and he promptly lays one smooch on her.

The women who give him sanctuary are hardly saints. Their menagerie of captured creatures includes a broken winged crow and a turtle, kept in restraints, like Clint’s Union corporal.

Siegel taught Clint something about character-driven movies, which have become better accepted than Siegel’s efforts over 40 years ago.

Now a new version ignores his ground-breaking efforts, though Stephen King was likely inspired by the plot.

When you cross Charlotte Bronte, Tennessee Williams, and Stephen King, you surely have something bizarre.

Nearly 50 years later, The Beguiled qualifies as an exhibit in the hothouse collection.

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