THE BEGUILED: Kino Lorber Revives a Slice of 70’s Southern Gothic on Blu-ray

Don Siegel’s adaptation of Thomas Cullinan’s Civil War thriller finds new life in a 2K restoration

The Beguiled occupies a somewhat strange place in the filmographies of its collaborators, notably its director Don Siegel and male lead Clint Eastwood. Siegel is known more for his other action and sci-fi films — Invasion of the Body Snatchers in 1956, and his Beguiled follow-up Dirty Harry — and Eastwood at the time was fresh off his collaborations in Italy with Sergio Leone and other Westerns and War Epics throughout the 1960s. It’s certainly an odd choice for either director to suddenly play against type in a sexually-charged Civil War chamber piece, but through the strength of its ensemble of veteran actresses led by screen legend Geraldine Page, The Beguiled manages to toe a fine line between its masculine and feminine energies — it’s a film that rebels against both its period trappings and the social norms of The Beguiled’s present, depicting its Southern belles with agency and drive, even as they fall victim to and scheme against Eastwood’s despicable and eventually emasculated Yankee lothario.

The film follows the girls of the Seminary for Young Ladies in Civil War Mississippi, led by the firm yet kind Martha Farnsworth (Geraldine Page), whose lives as devoted Confederacy supporters are upended when young Amy discovers the wounded Corporal John McBurney (Clint Eastwood) on the outskirts of the property. Near death, Martha and fellow teacher Edwina (Elizabeth Hartman) decide it’s best to restore John’s health before delivering him to his future captors. During his convalescence, though, John quickly charms and seduces many of the women in the home, from Edwina, to younger students, to the school’s slave, Hallie (Mae Mercer), as a ploy to avoid future capture. His appeals to their better natures, though, are not-so-subtly undercut by his womanizing nature — all of which John must face the consequences of as the school falls into a brimming hysteria.

It’s an unabashedly pulpy premise, and as one would expect from a more action-oriented pairing like Siegel and Eastwood, the film does fall victim to a catty male gaze as romantic tensions flare over the always-luxuriating McBurney. What tempers this, though, is how much The Beguiled spends within the drifting psyches of its female leads — however brief, Siegel drops into semi-Malickian voiceovers from each of the women in the school, revealing how each one is uniquely disrupted by this sudden injection of a masculine world of carnage and mayhem that they’d until then were successful in keeping at bay outside the school gates. A standout sequence dives into a hallucinatory vision by Martha as she finds herself fantasizing about McBurney, glorifying her sympathetic actions with paintings of Mary and Jesus — even alongside picturing McBurney’s dalliances with her students, and Martha herself with a taboo tryst of her own. What also surprises in the film is just how deservedly emasculated Eastwood’s McBurney becomes over the course of the film. McBurney feels like a seedier exploration into the inner devils of his Man with No Name character, doing away with his stoic silence in favor of a chameleon-like charm that allows the women of the Seminary to read into his intentions whatever they’d like.

McBurney’s hubris, though, ultimately sets up his downfall — as he deliberately misjudges just how much agency and willingness to take action his caretakers possess. McBurney is cut down by those who care for him, and justifiably so — he taps not just into an inner romantic urge, but an inner rage shared by the women of the Seminary, one once kept at bay by Martha and Edwina’s lessons on how women should behave once peacetime is achieved. For a film released at the dawn of the 1970’s, The Beguiled feels far more visceral than its future Sofia Coppola adaptation — it does away with any subtlety when it comes to the vitriol of its characters, eager to shake up what viewers from the 1860’s and 1960’s alike may think these women are capable of. It’s a film that, more akin to something like Ken Russell’s The Devils or even Robert Eggers’ The Lighthouse, urges a condemnation of subtlety or chastity in favor of confronting and embracing the more debased anger and violence within.

As part of their continuing releases of films in Eastwood and Siegel’s catalogue, Kino Lorber Studio Classics has released The Beguiled on Blu-ray in a brand new 2K restoration by Universal–allowing modern audiences who may be more familiar with Coppola’s more recent, subdued version to familiarize themselves with another generation’s compelling take on this slice of Southern Gothic.


Kino Lorber presents The Beguiled in its original 1.85:1 1080p widescreen version, sourced from a new 2K restoration by Universal. While the print may show some flecks and aging in its opening, sepia-tinged frames, The Beguiled’s restoration is quite rich and vibrant with a healthy amount of 35mm film grain. Moments lit by candlelight amidst darkness are warm and natural, free from any blocky “crush” of blacks or smudging of the film’s color palate. Outdoors scenes are somewhat blurred in long-shots, but this may be more to period technological limitations rather than a substandard transfer.


Kino’s release of The Beguiled features a 2.0 Stereo DTS-HD Master Audio track, restored alongside the film’s negative for this release. English SDH subtitles are provided for the feature film only.

The soundscape here is quite diversely layered, with phantom cannon fire and voiceover creeping in amidst the distinct dialogue and diegetic sound elements. Of particular standout on this track is Lalo Schifrin’s hallucinatory score, which begins with more traditional, haunting instruments of flute and acoustic guitar before leaning into a frenzied cacophony with elements of rock.


  • Audio Commentary with Kat Ellinger, editor-in-chief for Diabolique. Kat Ellinger delves into The Beguiled’s place in period cinema, the context of the rise of anti-Westerns and subversive war cinema through the 1970s, and Clint Eastwood’s role in both. Also discussed are much of the film’s sexual politics, as well as criticisms of Sofia Coppola’s approach to the same source material in her 2017 adaptation (such as the somewhat misguided decision to cut the character of Hallie from the later film).
  • Interview with Melody Thomas Scott: The actress behind The Beguiled’s Abigail recounts her experiences with the film, from casting, to her relationships with the other child and adult actresses in the film, to witnessing the development of Clint Eastwood and Don Siegel’s working relationship, which would continue alongside Scott with Dirty Harry. Scott also includes a fun anecdote involving her, Eastwood, and a practical joke with a Civil War needle. Recorded in 2020 for Kino Lorber’s release.
  • The Beguiled, Misty, Don, and Clint: An archival featurette from the Clint Eastwood Icon Collection that delves into the working relationship between The Beguiled’s lead and director.
  • Trailers From Hell: John Landis provides spoiler-ridden, off-color commentary on the trailer for The Beguiled.
  • Trailers for The Beguiled, Coogan’s Bluff, Two Mules for Sister Sara, The Duel at Silver Creek, The Gun Runners, Madigan, Charley Varrick, and The Black Windmill.
  • Reversible Cover with alternative poster art.

The Beguiled will be released on Blu-ray and DVD on November 10th, 2020 courtesy of Kino Lorber Studio Classics.

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