Walerian Borowczyk’s most notorious film wildly re-works the classic Beauty and the Beast story into a tale strictly for adults

The Beast is possibly the most notorious film in Polish director Walerian Borowczyk’s long career. It shocked audiences with themes of bestiality and graphic female masturbation. The 1975 French film followed up Borowczyk’s derided Immoral Tales with an even raunchier, more explicit tale. Originally meant to be included in Immoral Tales, Borowczyk expanded The Beast from a mere short to a feature-length tale. Controversial, divisive and provocative in its graphic sexuality, The Beast would mark the point when critics started viewing Walerian Borowczyk’s work as trending towards pornography.

Mathurin (Pierre Benedetti), the shy son of a Marquis, Pierre de l’Esperance (Guy Tréjan), is set to marry Lucy Broadhurst (Lisbeth Hummel). The two have never met in person but Lucy’s father’s will stipulated she was to marry Mathurin if she wanted her large inheritance. The other requirement in the will was that Cardinal de Balo would preside over the nuptials. Pierre is desperate to marry Mathurin to Lucy. His large French chateau has fallen into disrepair and he needs Lucy’s wealth to continue his family’s easy living.

The beautiful Lucy seems excited about marrying Mathurin, a dull and uncouth man more interested in breeding horses than anything else. Mathurin is ill-mannered and wears a cast for what he claims is a broken hand. Legends surround the family and their estate. Lucy becomes interested in the tale of Pierre’s ancestor Romilda de l’Esperance (Sirpa Lane).

The story of an aristocratic lady getting raped by a beast in the nearby forest two hundred years ago is a local folk legend. That becomes the basis for much of the third act when Lucy fantasizes about that encounter in her dreams. Romilda wanders through the local forest only to get ravaged by the beast, eventually succumbing to its animalistic lust. It is a shockingly graphic sequence that leaves nothing to the imagination. Its over-the-top depiction between the woman and furry beast practically turns the film into a sex farce, though a staggeringly high-minded sex farce.

The Beast certainly pushes the edge of graphic sexuality with its references to bestiality and other sundry topics.

The Beast does end with a unexpected punch-line to its sickly ironic humor and dry wit. The French box office has always embraced more explicitly sexual films than other countries. The huge French hit was banned and censored in most other countries for decades. Is it pornography? Borowczyk was a serious filmmaker that felt no shame at exploring sexual mores without inhibition. The Beast certainly pushes the edge of graphic sexuality with its references to bestiality and other sundry topics. The Beast’s spurting appendage in the act of coitus was a bridge too far methinks.

Despite a wild final act, The Beast builds a bit too slowly for its own good. The setting is perfect but at various times it slips into different modes, never knowing exactly what it wants to be as a film. High-brow period drama, ribald comedy, a critique on the waning French aristocracy – The Beast is all of this and more.


The Beast Blu-ray screen shot 6

Arrow Video renders a film-like presentation in lovely 1080P resolution for this Blu-ray. Framed at its native theatrical aspect ratio of 1.66:1, this is a new film transfer of the completely uncut 98-minute original version. Arrow Video continues their dedication to videophile purity with a sparkling transfer brimming with texture and crisp colors. The 2K restoration preserves every bit of detail possible, unfiltered and unprocessed.

The film elements are in respectable shape and condition for the 1975 movie. Shot on Eastmancolor film stock, a few specks and the occasional vertical scratch are just about the only blemishes. A touch of telecine wobble is noticeable in one early reel. Color is fairly stable with a rich contrast. The palette leans toward darker earth-tones with black levels that slightly limit shadow delineation.

Arrow’s transfer is easily the best this film has looked in decades and there is little room left for improvement given the top-notch film scan and generous AVC video encode. The Beast has strong definition and a fresh color palette with vivid detail for its period.

Video ★★★★☆

The audio is a 1.0 French PCM soundtrack with some English dialogue. A Scarlatti sonata is the keynote piece of music that plays during Lucy’s dream. This is mostly a dialogue-driven piece but its occasional music sounds fine in clear quality. The lossless audio presentation has decent range, though the sonata is played at a much louder volume than the rest of the soundtrack. For a low-budget European film from the 1970s, clarity is excellent. Dialogue and various moans remain intelligible throughout the movie.

The optional English subtitles display in a white font.

Audio ★★★☆☆

Arrow Video has already issued The Beast in the UK. This American combo set actually receives a slightly different set of special features, so completists may want to acquire both versions. It has been encoded for Region A and B.

This is a nice round-up of special features with rare shorts and commercials by the director. It also includes some fantastic behind-the-scenes footage made at the time of filming.

  • Introduction by film critic Peter Bradshaw (01:45 in HD) – A brief recap of the film’s impact.
  • The Making of The Beast: camera operator Noel Very provides a commentary on footage shot during the film’s production (57:56 in HD) – This is very rare silent 16mm footage from the set. It’s amazing to see this kind of behind-the-scenes material for a 1975 movie. Noel Very provides context for the footage we are seeing.
  • Frenzy of Ecstasy, a visual essay on the evolution of Borowczyk’s beast and the sequel that never was, Motherhood (04:22 in HD) – A fascinating textual piece giving us insight into his creative process. Borowczyk apparently drew detailed drawings for his beast’s designs.
  • The Profligate Door (13:17 in HD) – A new documentary about Borowczyk’s sound sculptures featuring curator Maurice Corbet.
  • Boro Brunch (07:37 in HD) – A reunion meal recorded in February 2014 reuniting members of Borowczyk’s crew
  • Commercials by Borowczyk: Holy Smoke (1963), The Museum (1964) and Tom Thumb (1966)
  • Gunpoint (11:04 in HD) – A documentary short by Peter Graham produced and edited by Borowczyk about hunting.
  • Behind Enemy Lines – The Making of Gunpoint (5:16 in HD) – Peter Graham recalls working with the director for Gunpoint.
  • Theatrical trailer (04:02 in HD) – Interesting in that this vintage trailer took some of the most explicit footage and covered the naughty parts with large black boxes. I guess that is one way to sell a movie.
  • Reversible sleeve featuring Borowczyk’s own original poster design
  • Illustrated booklet featuring new writing on the film by Daniel Bird and an archive piece by David Thompson, illustrated with original stills

Extras ★★★★☆

Full disclosure: This Blu-ray was provided to us for review as a pre-production screener. This has not affected the editorial process. For information on how we handle review material, please visit our about us page to learn more.


Click on the images below for full resolution screen captures taken directly from the Blu-ray. Images have not been altered in any way during the process.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *