Saturday, June 12, 2010

"The Beguiled" and the, um, limitations of human nature

Title: The Beguiled
Released: 1971
Genre: Uh, passion play, maybe?
Notable for: A cornucopia of sexual taboos
Coolest thing Clint does: Gets juices flowing inside every woman in sight (sorry, there's slim pickings for coolness here)

We theorize that decades before cell phones were invented, current texting jargon originated with movie audiences that watched "The Beguiled."

Millions of Clint Eastwood fans walked out of theaters, looked quizzically at each other, and said, "WTF?"

WTF, indeed.

Before The Clint Eastwood Project, we never heard of "The Beguiled." As we watched the film for the first time while enjoying morsels of beef-like material from Arbys, we could only assume Clint intentionally tried to shock and perhaps disturb his audience.

It is a dark movie in every way, including the literal one. So many scenes were shot in near-complete blackness that we worried something was wrong with our TV.

Sexual repression and violence are the themes, with elements of taboos including pedophilia, incest, lesbianism, wanton promiscuity and a three-way sex fantasy. Considering the era, we should probably include inter-racial lust, too.

It may not be a bad movie, but we were too puzzled to know for sure. With all that sex, it certainly held our interest.

The story is set in the Civil War, and it starts when a 12-year-old girl discovers Clint, a severely wounded Union soldier, behind enemy lines in the South.

Sixty seconds into the film comes the first scene that is probably too pervy to be shot today. Hiding in bushes with the girl, Clint -- who was 40 when the movie was made -- declares her "old enough for kisses" and plants a big one right on her mouth.

Shreds of Arbys fell from the corners of our lips as we sputtered in disbelief.

Clint's rescuer takes him back to a girls' school where she lives. The school turns out to be full of females who ache for a man inside their lions.

As he is nursed back to health, Clint acts like a man-whore -- in other words, a man -- by encouraging every female possible, including the 40ish schoolmarm whose previous sexual experience was with her brother.

"Why should I have to deny myself after all I've been through?" he asks.

Non-denial is a monumentally bad game plan.

After Clint is caught in bed with the resident slut, the schoolmarm takes revenge by sawing off his leg. The amputation is is not shown onscreen, but the sawing noises are revolting.

Clint is pissed off to lose a leg for no good reason, so he really makes the ladies angry. They feed him poison mushrooms and in the final scene sew a bag around his dead body.


Despite some imagery comparing Clint's character to a Christ figure, there is not a good person in the movie. The only exception may be a slave woman who tells Clint he must kill her before he screws her. Clint is weak, both physically and in self-control, from beginning to end. He's no Christ.

Andrew surmises the message of the film is this: The human race is no good.

"It captures so well the horribleness of people," he says.

It is an overtly sexual movie, so Clint should have a commentary on masculinity somewhere in there.

Maybe it's this: A real man should not count on the goodness in anyone, including himself. Maybe not, but that's the best we can do here.

Next up: "Play Misty for Me."


  1. Ha ha ha "examples of excellent spitting" love it.
    Great review, it explained a few things for me.

    Last night in Australia, Easter Sunday, around 1am 'Beguiled' was on and was I beguiled.
    But I had to change channels while the leg was being hacked off.
    Never having studied American history I feel I understand a bit more about the Civil War through
    Mr B's flash backs.

    In my early morning stupor, flashes of 'Picnic at Hanging Rock' ( directed by Peter Weir 1975) came to mind. In comparison, 'Beguiled' is a Psycho Gothic school girl drama.
    I don't expect you to ever watch PAHR, it's spooky but it's a girly thing about young ladies boarding at a private school in the Australian bush and their head mistress who goes mad when some girls are swallowed up by THE ROCK and another smashes through the glass house roof.

    Congratulations on your Manly Blogger Guy Award.
    (inside their lions or their loins?)