The Beast (La bęte) (1975) (NTSC)
Featurette-Making Of-The Making of La Bęte
Interviews-Crew-Interview with Walerian Borowczyk
Biographies-Crew-Biography of Walerian Borowczyk
Theatrical Trailer-La Bęte
Teaser Trailer-Umbrella Trailers
|Year Of Production||1975|
|RSDL / Flipper||
Dual Disc Set
|Cast & Crew|
|Region Coding||4||Directed By||Walerian Borowczyk|
|Pan & Scan/Full Frame||Unknown||French Dolby Digital 2.0 mono (192Kb/s)|
|Widescreen Aspect Ratio||1.66:1|
|Video Format||480i (NTSC)|
|Original Aspect Ratio||1.66:1||Miscellaneous|
|Annoying Product Placement||No|
|Action In or After Credits||Yes, Just a still image.|
The late Polish born director, Walerian Borowczyk began his artistic life as a painter and lithographer. He deserted this for filmmaking in the early fifties when be began making short, surreal animation films, which he continued making until the late sixties. In 1968 Borowczyk progressed to feature films with Goto, Isle of Love (Goto, l'île d'amour). His films largely centre on surreal and erotic themes. The latter is certainly the case with the films made later in his career - in 1987 he directed Emmanuelle 5.
Borowczyk enjoyed critical acclaim for many of his early works, establishing a reputable name for himself as a film director. However, in 1975 this reputation took somewhat of a battering with the release of his most controversial film, The Beast (La Bęte).
This very dark comedy divided critical opinion with its bold depiction of bestiality, causing the film to be banned in scores of countries around the world (including Australia) for many years. Although the main offending scenes appear late in the film, Borowczyk signals his intentions in the very first scene with graphic vision of two "breeding" horses. This sets an unflinching course for the film, and heralds the shameless portrayal of its subject matter.
The Beast was originally planned as the fifth instalment of Borowczyk's 1974 film, Immoral Tales (Contes immoraux), but the idea was shelved in favour of expanding the concept into a feature film. While the film may be rich in erotic symbolism, the rather silly premise of this adult fairy tale still highlights its original origins.
Young American heiress, Lucy Broadhurst (Lisbeth Hummel) and her chaperone aunt, Virginia (Elizabeth Kaza), arrive at the stately French chateau of the del I'Esperance family. Frantic preparations begin for the up-coming wedding of Lucy to the very mysterious, Mathurin del I'Esperance (Pierre Benedetti ).The del I'Esperance family sees this wedding as a chance to arrest the social decline that has besieged them over the years and inherit a fortune. The family name has long been hounded by rumour and innuendo about the bizarre happenings in the forest that surrounds their estate.
It is a vital condition of the inheritance that the wedding be performed by Mathurin's uncle, who is a Cardinal. The wedding is delayed while the family anxiously tries to track him down and convince him to return to the chateau.
In the days leading up to the wedding, Lucy has vivid dreams of the forest and a young maiden being repeatedly raped by an odd looking beast. She will later learn that these dreams have a meaning and the del I'Esperance family have a deep, dark secret.
To say that this isn't a film for everyone is a massive understatement. Audience reaction will range from those who see it as a totally hilarious experience, to those who are utterly disgusted by it. Either way, it's very likely that aficionado's of cult cinema will want to add The Beast to their DVD collections.
This is a NTSC transfer. The Beast is presented in its correct aspect ratio of 1.66:1, which is 16x9 enhanced.
The degree of sharpness is generally good, although the overall image is a little on the soft side. I haven't seen a cinema print of the film, but I'd be pretty confident that this would be consistent with the source print. Blacks were very clean and shadow detail was also quite good.
Colours were generally well balanced. At times, the colour red appeared to be slightly over-warm, but this wasn't at all problematic.
There were no MPEG artefacts noticed. Film-to video artefacts were well controlled and film artefacts were almost non-existent.
The only subtitles available are English. They are easily legible in bold white.
Both DVD's are single sided, dual layer discs. I could not locate the layer change on either disc.
There is one audio track available, French/English Dolby Digital 2.0 mono (192Kb/s).
The dialogue is good throughout, but the transfer suffers from a minor, but noticeable lapse in audio sync. This is more obvious with closing doors and banging objects. A clear example occurs at 47:26 with the chopping of meat with a cleaver.
There is no original music score used in the film. The baroque music of Domenico Scarlatti is used in certain scenes and over the end credits.
The surround channels and subwoofer were not used.
|Surround Channel Use|
The trailer for La Bęte, complete with black censorship bars.
This rather long piece is not your typical "making of" documentary. This is behind-the-scenes footage, shot on 16mm film stock during the making of The Beast . The footage was found by accident a few years ago and has been edited in scene order with the film. At the request of Walerian Borowczyk the footage has been left in its original state, without any sound or commentary. Thankfully the image quality is quite good and even with the lack of audio information, it gives us the opportunity to see Borowczyk working on the film with his cast and crew.
Filmed a few years ago, this short piece has Borowczyk discussing aspects of the film.
A brief biography on the life of Walerian Borowczyk, featuring some of his art, still photographs and documents.
A collection of seventeen behind-the-scenes images from The Beast.
There is censorship information available for this title. Click here to read it (a new window will open). WARNING: Often these entries contain MAJOR plot spoilers.
NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.
There is a R1 version of The Beast, which was released in December 2001 by Cult Epics. This edition is bare-bones and contains no extras. Another edition from Cult Epics was released in November 2004. This is a region free, 3 DVD set, which is a far better presentation than the previous release. It features exactly the same extras as this Umbrella release, except for the third disc, which contains a Dutch "complete version" of the film. This "complete version" has been transferred from an inferior video source and is heavy with film artefacts. It has a running time of approx 102 minutes and seems to be a working print. The differences between the director's cut and this "complete version" are quite insignificant, with the cuts made to simply streamline the film.
With that in mind, I can see no reason to go past the local R4, Umbrella release.
The cover of this DVD highlights the fact that The Beast was banned in Australia for some 30 years. I think it's fair to say that if not for its controversial aspect, the film would have faded into obscurity long ago. As previously mentioned, The Beast is not a film for everyone. While many people will track down a copy purely out of curiosity, it's worth noting that if you're easily offended, you should give the film a wide-berth.
The video and audio transfers are quite good.
The extras compliment the overall presentation.
|DVD||JVC XV-N412, using Component output|
|Display||Hitachi 106cm Plasma Display 42PD5000MA (1024x1024). Calibrated with THX Optimizer. This display device is 16x9 capable. This display device has a maximum native resolution of 1080i.|
|Audio Decoder||Built in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with THX Optimizer.|
|Amplification||Panasonic SA-HE70 80W Dolby Digital and DTS|
|Speakers||Fronts: Jensen SPX7 Rears: Jensen SPX4 Centre: Jensen SPX13 Subwoofer: Jensen SPX17|