Beguiled, The (1971)

The Beguiled (1971), produced and directed by Don Siegel.

A wounded Yankee soldier finds his way to a remote girls school behind Confederate lines, deep in the hanging moss country. They take him in and he immediately begins working on all of them from the youngest to the oldest. His goal: safety, freedom, and a little pleasure along the way. He's quite the operator and the school is fertile ground for his efforts. But it's an unstable situation: clever and manly as he is, he can't manage all of them at once. He's bad, but jealous women are crazy. The combination is a bit of a nightmare.

It's a fine lesser-known Clint Eastwood film. He plays a manipulative, darker character than usual. He's good at it, one of his better performances. I'd forgotten the final segment where he has a chance at redemption, saved by love. Too late.

The camera work is unusual without being totally eccentric, giving a disorienting perspective on a gothic female world of secrets and suppressed desires. We can hear their thoughts sometimes. I've never appreciated Geraldine Page before; she's very good here.

This deserves to be better known. The studio didn't know how to market it and Eastwood's fans prefer him a different sort of role.

Lalo Schifrin score. Filmed in Louisiana. Part of a DVD boxed set which includes Coogan's Bluff (1968), Play Misty for Me (1971), and The Eiger Sanction (1975).