Plot: What’s it about?
A dark presence looms just outside of a peaceful estate, an estate where a rich, aristocratic family resides. The members of the family inside are thought to be dignified & refined, but within the woods around the estate, this is where a darker force lurks. This hideous creature stalks through the trees, looking for women of any age, any type to assault. The beast is short, covered with hair, and vicious, especially when it comes to sexual encounters. It pounces any female within its grasp, using his massive phallus to violate the women. Whether the ladies are willing or not, the beast overpowers and overtakes them, simply to quell his primal urges. But this creature never gets satisfied and always looks for another round, even with one of the estate’s nobles. The girl has numerous encounters with the beast, always sexual and for her, very enlightening and as she searches herself, she is able to discover some things via these encounters. As time passes, a young American heiress returns to the estate some two hundred years later and is visited by this same beast, but this time, it stalks through dreams…
This unusual tale of animal love started out as part of director Walerian Borowczky’s Immoral Tales feature, but was soon dropped due to the subject matter. But as Borowczky wasn’t one to shy away from controversial material, he soon returned to his ideas and extended them into this feature length version, The Beast. I have to think that was the right approach, as this kind of take on the classic Beauty & Beast tale needs the extra space, without a doubt. If Borowczky would have crammed this into a short segment, it would have lost some of the depth and perhaps the artistic value, which would have been terrible indeed. I know some will disavow the artistic merits within The Beast, but I feel they are very evident throughout. The art is often mixed with nudity, sexual themes, and unusual moments, but it is there and perhaps because of these other elements, the mainstream refuses to see the artistic touches involved. This film will never reach the mainstream nor was it intended to, but it has a place in cinematic history, I think. This disc from Cult Epics has no extras, but the uncensored, widescreen edition is enough in this case.
As I mentioned above, this was supposed to be just one segment of another film, but I think Walerian Borowczky was smart to separate the tale. With more screen time to work with and probably more resources, the film is delivered as he intended, with a lot of artistic flair and of course, tons of nakedness and sex. You have to hand it to him for taking such a risk, as a movie with a beast molesting young women could have been a mistake, especially when Borowczky tried to justify his film as art, not pornography. It is good to see people step out of the lines and take risks like that though, without a doubt. His ideas and approach won’t appeal to everyone, but then again, I’m sure he was more than aware of that from the start. Other films by Borowczky include Queen of the Night, Immoral Women, Behind Convent Walls, Emmanuelle ’77, Goto: Island of Love, Story of a Sin, and Immoral Tales.
Video: How does it look?
The Beast is presented in a 1.85:1 widescreen transfer, which is not enhanced for widescreen televisions. I would love to have a fully restored & remastered anamorphic edition, but due to the film’s limited appeal, I doubt we’ll see that anytime soon. I do believe an anamorphic transfer exists, but is not restored and even so, I wonder why that 16:9 enhanced version wasn’t used for this release. The image here is soft and worn, but looks better than I had expected, certainly an improvement over any editions I’ve seen. The print has signs of wear and some blemishes, but it still solid and as such, I think fans will be pleased here. I found colors and contrast to be on the soft side, but not too bad and sharper than expected. So this is no visual revelation, but if you’ve seen this before, you’ll notice a nice improvement with this transfer.
Audio: How does it sound?
Not a whole lot of stuff to mention here, as the audio track is stable and handles the tasks, but does little else. The main issue here is that this disc includes an English language track, which sounds good, aside from the humorous voice talent involved. This is not good news, as this was a French movie and as such, I wanted a French language track, but no such luck here. The sound effects, vocals, and music all sound clean & clear, but also false at times, which is a let down. This is the real chink in the armor, as I think film buffs who would purchase this disc would rather have the original language track, hands down.
Supplements: What are the extras?
This disc contains no bonus materials.