The Beguiled (1971)

A curious adaptation of Thomas Cullinan’s 1966 lackadaisically-paced American Civil War drama, a kind of vehicle for Clint Eastwood to try out a very different image and character. Said character’s first appearance in the film involves him lusting after a twelve year old, kissing her and making the assurance that twelve is “old enough for kisses” (going much further and much faster than the novel did with making the character unlikable – the film also frontloads a shocking twist of the novel’s into an early, sinful reveal for its female lead).

There are other interesting changes, like making one of the book’s teenage girls a quite different adult in the film, and foregrounding some of the story’s seduction from the male side instead of obscuring it and covering it through the feminine perspective as the novel did. Some elements of the adaption are painful, like the (thankfully fairly infrequent) voiceover lines providing lame exposition.

beguiled quad

The film works best when working most cinematically, like the immersive POV shots when Eastwood’s wounded character is carried into the school full of women that he spends the story beguiling and harassing. The film is very literal but does convey the tension of the story fairly well, and Eastwood’s appearance and physicality works well for the character, even as the writing reduces some of the more nuanced shade a more faithful adaptation might’ve given him. It’s shlock where the novel is pulp, but generally as engaging. Three medical textbooks and a turtle.

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