Couch Potato

I Like to Watch (Instantly): The Entity, The Beguiled

Notable titles from the Netflix Watch Instantly world

The Entity
The Entity

The Entity (1981)

Directed by Sidney J. Furie

Cast: Barbara Hershey, Ron Silver, David Labiosa, George Coe, Margaret Blye, Jacqueline Brookes, Richard Brestoff, Natasha Ryan, Alex Rocco, Mark Weiner, Raymond Singer, Paula Victor

I got turned on to this film when Martin Scorsese namechecked it on his list of the 11 scariest films of all time. On the face of it, the premise of a woman sexually assaulted by an invisible force seems unredeemably exploitative, but an outstanding performance by Barbara Hershey and overall classy filmmaking by director Sidney J. Furie (who helmed the droll spy thriller The Ipcress File) makes it all work—up to and including its suspension-of-disbelief-threatening sci-fi/parapsychology/Ghostbusters-like denouement. Not that The Entity isn’t utterly squirm-inducing and ugly to watch at times, but that’s part of the horror-movie ride. Scorsese says: “The banal settings, the California-modern house, accentuate the unnerving quality.” He’s right. Nice widescreen copy too.

The Beguiled
The Beguiled

The Beguiled (1971)

Directed by Don Siegel

Cast: Peggy Drier, Melody Thomas, Mae Mercer, Geraldine Page, Clint Eastwood, Pattye Mattick, Jo Ann Harris, Darleen Carr, Pamelyn Ferden, Elizabeth Hartman

Back in the 70s, it was OK if the protagonist was a jerk, and so it is in this weird period psychodrama. Geraldine Page is the repressed and twisted head mistress of the Farnsworth Seminary for Young Ladies, stuck in the middle of the nasty old Civil War. For reasons that later become all too clear, she decides to hide wounded yank Clint Eastwood from a passing Confederate army patrol. Bed-ridden Clint becomes the rooster in the hen house, revealing himself to be a coward, a liar and a cold-blooded manipulator of schoolgirls, but we root for him anyway. Sorta. The dreamlike atmosphere and dark tone give this a ghost-story feel, but the only ghosts here are terrible secrets from the past. The clean pan-and-scan rip is totally watchable, and it vanishes from Netflix WI on July 31, so hurry up.