La BÍte (1975) from Johnny Web (Uncle Scoopy; Greg Wroblewski)

Walerian Borowczyk is one of cinema's most famous crackpots. In fact, I'll go one step beyond that. Although many complete crackpots have turned out films, Borowczyk is probably the one with the most actual talent for it (possibly excepting David Lynch). He is a guy who might have made good and arty movies in the manner of the Italian masters, if only he had been sane. Borowczyk's best achievement is probably a beautifully filmed collection of erotic Eurotrash tales called Immortal Tales, but the Polish auteur is most famous, and most infamous, for the very bizarre story called The Beast.

In its original avatar, the Beast was an 18 minute short tale, filmed in 1973 to be part of five stories in Immoral Tales. It was basically a wordless story about a woman being chased through the woods, then raped, by a beast of some undefined sort. As the rape progresses, she begins to enjoy it. Mr. Beast is basically a man in a really bad gorilla suit with some kind of wolf head. The story was marked by frequent shots of the beast's enormous wanger ejaculating copiously all over the victim, frequently intercut with explicit shots of her genitals. 

Your basic shock-trash.

For various reasons, Borowczwk decided to pare down the Immoral Tales to a ribald foursome which did not include The Beast. That decision left him with an isolated 18 minute short. Since there is no market for 18 minute movies, Borowczyk spent part of the next three years writing a framing story around his original footage. In the expanded version, an American heiress comes to Europe to marry a down-on-his-luck French aristocrat. On the eve of her wedding, she is sleeping alone, really turned on, and guess what she dreams about?

Amazingly enough, she has an 18 minute dream about a woman being pursued by a beast!

Now that's economical filmmaking!

As the story progresses, the American comes to suspect that her dream fantasy is real, and that the man she is to marry is the offspring of the beast and the countess in her dream.

The film includes extraordinarily graphic sex scenes, right up to the border of hardcore sex - everything but the penetration. It even has about six money shots, but of course it is not a human, but a beast - one who climaxes in gallons. When this film premiered in London in 1976, scalpers were selling tickets for £17 - something like a hundred bucks in today's dollars. The certification by the British film censors at the time (the Public Services and Safety Commission) turned out to be a major scandal, because only three of the fifteen members showed up for the certification screening/hearing, and it was passed uneventfully. I think they are still talking about the decision in London.

  • The movie begins with two horses mating - close up of the male's penis, close up of the female's winking pinkness, close-up of the actual mating, and the withdrawal! Eight minutes into the film, that is still going on. Good stuff, eh? You might want to watch it with your kids at Christmas, instead of It's a Wonderful Life.
  • The next scene is dialogue between two old guys with bad haircuts. One of the guys is supposed to be dusting an old family painting while they talk. We can actually see a huge cobweb hanging from the top of the painting, but when he finishes, he has brushed every part of the painting except where the big cobweb actually was! It is still clearly visible.
  • With the possible exception of Tom Jones, this film probably sets the record for the most gratuitous use of harpsichord music.
  • You will love all the pseudo-profound speeches about how man and the beast are indistinguishable!

Is this satire? Some people think so.

Whatever it is, it is certainly unique.

 

Don't be fooled by the fairly high score at IMDb. That's a cult-value thing. The photography is good, but the movie stinks worse than dead fish on a deserted beach. On the other hand, if you find it available for rental, pick it up and watch it in fast-forward, stopping at parts that interest you. Although it is a badly-dubbed, terrible movie (and not funny-terrible), you owe yourself a look at it because it is one of a kind. Sure, you could probably make a much better movie at home with your family, but there is plenty in this film to satisfy your curiosity about 70's-era Eurotrash.

DVD Notes: it has been issued in a three-disk special edition. Disk one is the movie itself, a beautifully re-mastered widescreen anamorphic transfer of the theatrical version. Disk three is the original uncut version, but don't be excited by this, because the additional four minutes just consists of boring speeches, and this version looks like a digitized VHS tape. The poor quality is exacerbated by the presence of black bars across the entire film to accommodate hard-coded subtitles. Disk two is a full-length documentary about the making of the film, but it has two major drawbacks (1) the sound has been lost (2) it does not include anything about the 18 minute "Beast" portion of the film made in 1973, and that's the only really interesting part.

 

DVD info from Amazon

  • Disk 1: newly re-mastered widescreen anamorphic version of the director's cut

  • Disk 3: old, poorly mastered version of the full-length version, with hard-coded subtitles

  • Disk 2: a full-length "making of" documentary

NUDITY REPORT

Sirpa Lane shows every inch of her body, including gynecological close-ups.

Lisbeth Hummel is seen completely naked in several scenes. Although there is no open-leg shot, there are genital close ups.

Pascale Rivault is also seen completely naked.

The Critics Vote

  • BBC 2/5

The People Vote ...

  • With their votes ... IMDB summary: IMDb voters score it 5.9 (!!)
IMDb guideline: 7.5 usually indicates a level of excellence, about like three and a half stars from the critics. 6.0 usually indicates lukewarm watchability, about like two and a half stars from the critics. The fives are generally not worthwhile unless they are really your kind of material, about like two stars from the critics. Films under five are generally awful even if you like that kind of film, equivalent to about one and a half stars from the critics or less, depending on just how far below five the rating is.

My own guideline: A means the movie is so good it will appeal to you even if you hate the genre. B means the movie is not good enough to win you over if you hate the genre, but is good enough to do so if you have an open mind about this type of film. C means it will only appeal to genre addicts, and has no crossover appeal. D means you'll hate it even if you like the genre. E means that you'll hate it even if you love the genre. F means that the film is not only unappealing across-the-board, but technically inept as well.

Based on this description, this film is an E. However, it it a must-see. You will probably not be able to watch it all the way through, but you might be curious about it. It is unique.

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