Bil’s rating (out of 5): BBBB. USA, 1971. The Malpaso Company. Screenplay by Albert Maltz, Irene Kamp,based on the novel by Thomas Cullinan. Cinematography by Bruce Surtees. Produced by Don Siegel. Music by Lalo Schifrin. Production Design by Ted Haworth. Costume Design by Helen Colvig. Film Editing by Carl Pingitore.
A Yankee soldier (Clint Eastwood) is found near death on the grounds of a southern plantation that has been operating as a school for girls throughout the Civil War and, before thinking about patriotic loyalties, the ladies take him in to help him recuperate. The headmistress of the school (a superb Geraldine Page) announces that she thinks it humane to let him recover before handing him over to confederate soldiers, but it’s pretty easy to guess from the barely concerned grins on the girls’ faces that they all are quite thrilled at the sight of a man in the house. At first unable to walk, this handsome virile hunk becomes an object of fantasy and desire for a group of women of varying ages and needs, from Page to the lonely virginal teacher (Elizabeth Hartman) who sees him as an opportunity for real romance, a reckless teenager who wants to release her hormones on him, the house slave who feels he might help her life and the little girl who first discovered him and sees him as a fatherly friend. Eastwood makes the mistake of thinking himself the fox in the hen house, but time passes, events transpire, and it appears more likely that he is the male worker bee in a house of frustrated queens. Excellent direction, cinematography, writing and some marvelously upsetting violence make this updated Black Narcissus a remarkable treat.