[cbtabs][cbtab title=”The Beast Review”]Here’s the lowdown – The Beast is a 1975 expansion of Walerian Borowczyk’s short piece “The Beast of Gevaudan” included in early versions of Immoral Tales, which Arrow Video included in their Blu-Ray edition of the film. If you’ve seen the short, then you know what to expect from The Beast, except that Borowczyk segments that short into the film as a dream sequence late in the final act. And so if the viewer did not enjoy the original short – whether because it was too long, or too disjointed, or too disturbing what with the bestial rape – then The Beast will not be one’s cup of tea either.
In fact, I’m not sure what kind of audience this film is directed toward. Unlike Immoral Tales, The Beast is a bit more intentionally erotic despite the bestiality that Borowczyk infuses both with horse rutting and with the dream sequence at the end of the film. There’s more straight-forward sex here; the black servant Ifany (Hassane Fall) has sex with Clarisse (Pascale Rivault) – the daughter of his master Pierre de l’Esperance (Guy Trejan) – and when he’s called away, she masturbates on the edge of a bed, and newly-engaged Lucy Broadhurst (Lisbeth Hummel) masturbates with a rose in a weird, what-could-that-feel-like kind of way.
But the eroticism is secondary to Borowczyk’s dry plot about the marriage between Lucy and Pierre’s odd son Mathurin (Pierre Benedetti), and The Beast, for nearly three-quarters of its runtime, focuses on this coming unity while awaiting the Cardinal’s arrival. There are some interesting ideas at work in the film – Borowczyk explores the horrifying depths Pierre will plunge just to get money from Lucy’s dowry, and he does do quite a bit to equate humanity and bestiality, then condemning the unity of the two.
But The Beast is a slow and tedious watch, full of dialogue that has very little worth. It’s clear that Borowczyk is making an artful statement, but the point of it gets lost in an endless display of French wealth, female nudity, and then the tacked-on dream sequence recycled nearly scene-for-scene from Immoral Tales‘ short. If one has seen that short, then there’s really no reason to come back to The Beast. This is just an unnecessary extension of that idea, broadened to include French aristocracy and a story that only barely relates (the woman in the dream is supposed to be the ancestor of the l’Esperance family, Romilda).
It’s hard to recommend The Beast, then, as a vital film in Borowczyk’s canon. It’s less disjointed than Immoral Tales, but – surprisingly – it has even less to say. It’s an erotic film with little usable substance, and the message isn’t really worth the slog. Ultimately, the short film in Immoral Tales is more than enough, and The Beast unsuccessfully attempts to reuse that footage and give it added context. [/cbtab]
Like Arrow’s release of Immoral Tales along with this film, the Blu-Ray of The Beast has some seriously gorgeous video quality. This is probably the best the film is going to look, which means you get to see bush, vagina lips, and red roses in all their glory. Same is true with the audio, which sounds flawless. It’s a great treatment of a film that, in my opinion, doesn’t deserve it. But alas.
A video introduction to the film is included from Peter Bradshaw, who speaks very kindly of Borowczyk’s work. He actually makes it sound more impressive than it really is. Also like Immoral Tales, this Blu-Ray comes with reversible cover art and a 20-page booklet (can’t comment on that since I don’t have a physical copy).
For extras, the disc includes quite a few specials. There’s “Boro Brunch,” a gathering of people who worked on various Borowczyk films discussing memories of those times; “Frenzy of the Beast,” a special that highlights Borowczyk’s notes on the design of the Beast; “The Making of the Beast,” commentary from Noel Very with behind-the-scenes video footage; a video of Borowcyzk’s art; and a trailer for the film. Also included are a few commercials Borowczyk shot, as well as a short film “Gunpoint” with a commentary featurette.
This is a stacked Blu-Ray of special features, probably about two hours’ worth with the 57-minute “The Making of the Beast.” But their worth to regular viewers who may not be fans of Borowcyzk is questionable. The making-of featurette is rather boring; “Gunpoint” and the commercials have nothing to do with The Beast. Hardcore Borowczyk fans will enjoy the additional extras of his work; casual viewers will again want to steer clear of paying full price.[/cbtab][/cbtabs]