Tony Mastroianni Review Collection
"The Beguiled" script just isn't
Cleveland Press May 1, 1971
What fools you about "The Beguiled', is that it has the surface looks of a good movie. This is a southern gothic melodrama and the coloring is subdued and murky, the aura of decay is everywhere and everyone has a look of shabby gentility.
Looks are deceiving. People have to open their mouths to speak and that spoils everything.
The movie is based on the novel of the same name by Cleveland author Tom Cullinan. What the moviemakers did was take the title and the bare bones of the plot, kill all the variety in characterizations, all differences in motivations and all nuances.
Making changes would not be so terrible (except for the author) if they resulted in making a good movie. These changes don't.
The period is the Civil War and a wounded Union soldier (Clint Eastwood) finds refuge in a private school for girls deep in Confederate territory.
The place is run by Geraldine Page whose general tone throughout the film is one of exasperation bordering on hysteria. Elizabeth Hartman floats as a virgin school teacher suffering from sexual repression and to round out the obvious scheme of things there is a teenage student (Jo Ann Harris) with nymphomaniac tendencies.There is a suggestion of incest in Miss Page's background as well.
THE VISITOR beguiles most of the young ladies. He has plans and so do they and most of them are of the heavy-breathing variety. But the ladies are not planning in unison and when he goes too far with one of them the others take their revenge in a grim and bloody fashion.
Clint Eastwood doesn't help any. He made it big playing an offbeat hero in Italian westerns where all he had to do was squint into the sun. The squint-eyed routine doesn't work as well here. Considering all the things that happen to him he remains pretty calm and unemotional. That's what happens when you belong to the squint-eyed school of acting.