Release Date(s)1971 (November 10, 2020)
Studio(s)The Malpaso Company/Universal Pictures (Kino Lorber Studio Classics)
- Film/Program Grade: B-
- Video Grade: B+
- Audio Grade: B+
- Extras Grade: A-
After working together on Coogan’s Bluff and Two Mules for Sister Sara (and before their ultimate collaboration on Dirty Harry), director Don Siegel and Clint Eastwood teamed for one of the most off-the-wall films that Eastwood ever took part in during the 1970s: The Beguiled. Based on the novel by Thomas P. Cullinan, this Southern Gothic horror drama examines the relationships between a group of women when a man, an outsider, becomes a part of their world. Artfully crafted, the film shows us rich, complex characters who are seemingly good, but also capable of unsavory things given the chance. Eastwood gives a nuanced performance, as does the entire cast, but thanks to the film’s marketing campaign, which attempted to sell it as another Eastwood action-oriented movie, it did poorly upon release and went critically unappreciated. In the years since, it has been reappraised as one of Siegel’s and Eastwood’s more interesting endeavors. The source material was also reinterpreted by Sofia Coppola in 2017.
During the American Civil War, the Miss Martha Farnsworth Seminary for Young Ladies in rural Mississippi finds itself in a quandary when one of the younger students (Pamelyn Ferdin) shows up at the front gate with a severely wounded Union soldier, Corporal John McBurney (Eastwood). Headmistress Martha (Geraldine Page) reluctantly allows him to be brought in and treated, fully intending to turn him over to Confederate soldiers once he heals. Meanwhile, McBurney’s presence at the school draws enormous interest from everybody there, including the emotionally guarded Edwina (Elizabeth Hartman) and the sexually excited Carol (Jo Ann Harris), both of whom he has affairs with. And though Martha has a troubled past and is initially distrustful of him, she also becomes interested in McBurney. Tensions rise as jealousies between the women and possible outside interference threaten to dismantle McBurney’s intention of staying for good.
Previously only available in the US in a compilation release, The Beguiled comes to Region A Blu-ray for a second time from Kino Lorber Studio Classics, sporting a new 2K master of what appears to be an interpositive element. It has a soft appearance, but appears organic with plenty of detail on objects, faces, and structures, and is much more favorable over Universal’s previous harsher, flatter master. The Southern locations give the color palette visual muscle with a swath of bold colors including the reds and purples on the young ladies’ dresses and the greens and browns on the open landscapes. Skin tones also appear natural. Blacks levels are deep with good shadow detail and excellent contrast. It’s a stable presentation throughout with mild speckling and occasional thin lines running through the frame. The improvements over the previous master are sometimes minor, but all of them are for the better.
The audio is included in English 2.0 Mono DTS-HD MA with optional subtitles in English. A mild hiss is apparent throughout, but dialogue exchanges are clear, whether they’re spoken outwardly or inwardly. Lalo Schifrin’s score and Eastwood singing lines from Dove She Is a Pretty Bird have a surprising roundness to them which, for a narrow single channel track, is impressive. Sound effects range from mild ambient activity to explosions, the former the more impactful of the two. There are also no leftover instances of crackle, dropouts, or distortion.
The following extras are also included:
- Audio Commentary by Kat Ellinger
- A Little Southern Gothic with Melody Thomas Scott (HD – 17:54)
- The Beguiled, Misty, Don & Clint (Upsampled SD – 6:13)
- Trailers from Hell with John Landis (HD – 2:52)
- Trailer (HD – 2:43)
- Coogan’s Bluff Trailer (HD – 2:12)
- Two Mules for Sister Sara Trailer (HD – 2:36)
- The Duel at Silver Creek Trailer (Upsampled SD – 2:11)
- The Gun Runners Trailer (Upsampled SD – 2:11)
- Madigan Trailer (Upsampled SD – 2:27)
- Charley Varrick Trailer (Upsampled SD – 2:24)
- The Black Windmill Trailer (Upsampled SD – 2:17)
In the audio commentary with author Kat Ellinger, she avidly and thoroughly discusses the film’s opening titles, what genres the film fits within, Siegel’s and Eastwood’s discovery of and reaction to the book, the small and large changes made from the book, Siegel’s thoughts on the film and its failure theatrically, Bruce Surtees’ cinematography, various critical analyses, female-driven horror films in the 1970s, and female sexuality in films, among other subjects. In the interview with actress Melody Thomas Scott, she discusses how she gained weight in order to get the part of Abigail which she read about in Variety, auditioning for Don Siegel and almost being in Dirty Harry, how she also got a part in The Shootist and replaced Goldie Hawn, working with Siegel in The Beguiled, her thoughts on the rest of the cast including Clint Eastwood, and her reflections on working on the film. The Beguiled, Misty, Don & Clint is short featurette showcasing film historian and critic Richard Schickel, Clint Eastwood, and producer Robert Daley who speak about the film and Eastwood’s work as an actor, as well as other characters he portrayed at that time. The rest of the extras consist of a Trailers from Hell version of the film’s trailer with commentary by John Landis, the normal trailer for the film, and a series of related trailers for other releases by Kino Lorber. The disc is housed in a standard amaray case with reversible artwork—the original US poster art on the front and the original Italian poster art on the back—inside a slipcover featuring the original US poster art.
This new release of The Beguiled is a welcome upgrade over the previous bare bones (outside of the film’s trailer) Blu-ray release from Universal themselves. Kino Lorber’s new Blu-ray provides an excellent presentation with a nice selection of bonus materials, including a great commentary and a fun interview, making it an essential purchase for fans of Clint Eastwood and Don Siegel in general.
- Tim Salmons