The Beast (La Bête) (1975)
Directed by Walerian Borowczyk

Artistic Value: * *
Entertainment Value: * * *

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Lucy Broadhurst (Lisbeth Hummel), a young American woman, arrives at the château of a French nobleman, the Duc de Balo (Marcel Dalio), to marry his eccentric son, Mathurin (Pierre Benedetti). Her husband-to-be, however, has strange secrets that could threaten their relationship.

Walerian Borowczyk's The Beast is such a truly outlandish film that, while it is unlikely to impress the viewer, it is almost certain to entertain him.

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Most noticeably, the movie is absolutely seething with a peculiar, overwrought sexuality. In fact, it begins with an extended and very graphic presentation of horses mating. After that, at different points throughout the narrative, the viewer is treated to such sights as Mathurin's sister rubbing her genitals on a footboard after her liaison with the family's black butler is interrupted by his being called to work, Lucy masturbating by shoving a rose into her vagina, and that same woman looking at pornographic drawings or prints. The Beast's weirdest sexual sequences, however, are those which reveal a dream Lucy is having. In this, she envisions an Eighteenth Century noblewoman (Sirpa Lane) being chased through a forest by a hairy monster who looks very much like a man wearing a gorilla suit and a rat mask. As this lady runs, different articles of her clothing become caught on sticks, tree limbs, or the like and get torn off, until she is left nearly naked. Finally, she is caught by the beast, whose enormous penis immediately begins squirting out copious amounts of semen. Although the woman subsequently manages to escape from this creature, leaving him only with her powdered wig, which he then uses to masturbate, she is eventually caught again and raped by the furry devil. Not surprisingly, after a short time she begins to enjoy such treatment and goes on to perform various sexual acts upon the creature while he continuously ejaculates on her. These scenes really are bizarre.

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Regrettably, other than the heroines' ludicrous sexual misadventures, there is not much in The Beast for which the film can be recommended. The acting is less than impressive. Visually, the movie is entirely pedestrian, and the narrative is at once vague, amorphous, and heavy-handed. The director's attempts to surround the strange noble family around which the story revolves with a sense of mystery are never satisfying. Actually, they are pretty clumsy. For instance, though the duke and his uncle squabble, with increasing vehemence and violence, about Mathurin's impending marriage, the latter worrying about some dire but unstated consequence of this union, the viewer is made aware of almost nothing other than the fact that something bad is sure to happen. Even when Mathurin's darkest secret is shown, it neither appears to have anything to do with his family's worries nor even makes a great deal of sense. Moreover, the sexually charged atmosphere of the château, which, apparently, adds to the depraved abnormality of its owners, is more goofy than it is intense. The various preparations the duke makes for his son's wedding, however, take up far more time than do any of the other elements of the story and are even less engaging than are those other elements. The viewer is, for instance, given the chance to watch how that man employs a local priest to baptize his son, how he makes arrangements to bring a cardinal from Rome to perform the wedding, how he entertains his son's fiancée, and so on and so on.

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Although I cannot say that The Beast is an especially good movie, it is, at the very least, always fun to watch.

Review by Keith Allen

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