Don't you just hate spoilers? I do, too. That's why I always try to include warnings. However, I sometimes ramble a bit too much here or there and maybe a few (or many) key plot points slip without me giving proper notice. So I'd like to include a blanket spoiler warning for the weary internet travelers of the world: Here There Be Spoilers. You've been warned.

Saturday, May 5, 2012

The Beguiled (1971) - A Review

***Spoilers abound***

I always enjoy it when actors (and actresses) take on roles that are a bit uncharacteristic of their on-screen personas. Clint Eastwood, much like John Wayne before him, doesn't have too many diverse roles. Clint is either a cop or a cowboy or some other curmudgeon hard-ass. Not that dependability is bad at all in this case, but there are a few exceptional cinematic exceptions that warrant some attention. Play Misty for Me, The Bridges of Madison County, and Every Which Way but Loose are all examples of Clint playing outside of the box. And, even though I find The Bridges of Madison County to be an all out gag-fest, I generally can never say no to a movie where Eastwood decides to shake things up a little. In my opinion, The Beguiled is easily one of his best out-of-the-box roles. I also don't think it is coincidence that the movie came out the same year as Play Misty for Me.

Play Misty for Me is a bit more rudimentary than The Beguiled, but that is only because Play Misty for Me was Clint Eastwood's directorial debut while The Beguiled had been directed by the tried and true hand of the late great Don Siegel. Siegel directed classics like Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1956), Hell is for Heroes (1962), The Shootist (1976), Charley Varrick (1973), and five movies that just happened to feature Clint Eastwood. Chances are you already know the five movies, but I'll list them anyway: Coogan's Bluff (1968), Two Mules for Sister Sara (1970), The Beguiled (1971), Dirty Harry (1971) and Escape from Alcatraz (1979). I think the duo of Eastwood/Siegel could have been remembered as one of the great actor/director duos if it wasn't for the fact that Clint Eastwood's star was still on the rise and it was going to rise much higher while Siegel's time in the spotlight was nearing the end. And, for some strange reason or another, The Beguiled was not embraced at the time. I suppose I can understand why. Who really wants to see Eastwood hobble around for an hour and a half while being held captive by increasingly obsessive members of the fairer sex when Eastwood could be kicking ass and killing bad guys? It is quite a different movie from The Good, The Bad, & The Ugly. This movie was Misery before there was a Misery. Actually, if you combined The Beguiled and Play Misty for Me you really would have Misery. Think about it. A radio jockey held prisoner by a woman who claims to be his number one fan and then tortures him by cutting off one of his legs...

Anyway, I think it is funny how both movies came out in the same year and yet The Beguiled is the only one that wasn't a financial success. It boggles my mind.

I haven't gotten to the plot yet, have I? Not in any real depth anyway. The movie is based off a Southern Gothic novel written by Thomas P. Cullinan. I have not read the book, but it is on my radar. So I obviously can't do any comparing and contrasting on that point. I'll just soldier on anyway, okay?

Clint Eastwood plays an injured Union solder on the brink of unconsciousness that is discovered by a young woman while she was out picking mushrooms. She brings him back to this school for women (most of them are really just girls) and they decide to nurse him back to health rather than call for the local Confederate patrols as they should have done under such circumstances. They are thrilled to have their own man around. Enemy or not, they don't want to get rid of him any time soon.

Slowly, Eastwood begins to regain some of his strength and he starts to realize that he may be in trouble. They won't turn him over to the Confederates, but they won't let him free either. He is their prisoner and things start to turn bad when he is caught having sex with one of the girls. Of course, all of them wanted him, but they didn't want to be the ones to not get him. Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned and there are  suddenly quite a few scorned women around him...

It's a great movie and the ending is perfect for it. It has a stark ending that would have made Edgar Allan Poe proud. Perhaps that is why people preferred Play Misty for Me, though. Some people just don't care for what I call the "Richard Bachman" endings and they want the good guy to win all the time. Especially when that good guy is Clint Eastwood. Well, don't expect a happy ending. I warned you.

No comments:

Post a Comment