From The Art and Popular Culture Encyclopedia
La Bête (Eng: The Beast) is a 1975 film written and directed by Walerian Borowczyk, starring Sirpa Lane, based on Lokis, a story by Prosper Mérimée. The film (originally conceived in 1972 as a film on its own, but then in 1974 as the fifth story in Contes immoraux) belonged to his later work, which was seen by many as a decline in the director's career after Dzieje grzechu, except in France, where it was hailed by critics such as Ado Kyrou.
The music consists of harpsichord pieces by Domenico Scarlatti.
Once upon a time in the 18th century a beast lived in the woods of an aristocratic estate. And this beast, possessed of a giant phallus and an insatiable lust, set upon the beautiful young lady of the house. Two centuries later, the tale of the beast would return in the dreams of an American heiress contracted to carry the male descendant of the same crumbling aristocratic family and their secret.
Philip Broadhurst, a wealthy businessman, dies and leaves his entire estate to his daughter Lucy, on condition that within six months of his death she marries Mathurin, the son of his best friend the Marquis Pierre de l'Esperance, and that they must be married by Cardinal Joseph do Balo, the brother of Pierre's uncle, the crippled Duc Rammendelo de Balo, who shares their crumbling farmhouse with Pierre's daughter Clarisse, and their servant Ifany, whom we see copulating with Clarisse at every opportunity.
The problem is that Mathurin, who manages the family horse-breeding business, is dim-witted and deformed, and as a result has never been baptised. Pierre summons the local choirboy-loving priest to the house for the baptism, but Pierre, by promising the priest repairs to his church and a new bell, performs the ritual himself so that the priest doesn't find out the truth about Mathurin.
Lucy and her aunt, Virginia, are driven by their chauffeur towards the farm but their way is blocked by a fallen tree. They find a back route to the house but end up at the stables where they see two horses copulating. Lucy eagerly takes some photographs, much to the disgust of her aunt. They eventually arrive at a back door to the house, where Lucy asks Rammaendelo about ghostly rumours she has heard about the family. Rammaendelo, who is not in favour of the marriage because he is dependent on Mathurin to look after him, shows her a book that describes the beautiful Romilda's fight with a beast in the local forest 200 years ago. Looking around the house, Lucy comes across several drawings depicting bestiality, and becomes sexually excited at the thought of her impending marriage, even though she has never met Mathurin.
Pierre blackmails Rammaendelo into persuading his brother to perform the marriage by telling him that he has proof that Rammaendelo poisoned his wife. However, Rammaendelo is unable to get through to the Cardinal on the telephone. Pierre sends a telegram instead, assuring him that Mathurin has been baptised and urging him to attend that very evening.
Everyone assembles for dinner, and Mathurin's uncouth manners soon become apparent. Lucy and her aunt try to leave, but are persuaded to stay. Everyone having drunk too much wine, most of the assembly fall asleep while waiting up for the Cardinal. Lucy retires to her room, undresses, puts on her thin wedding dress, and dreams that she is Romilda, playing a harpsichord. Seeing a lamb straying into the forest, she chases after it to find that it has been torn apart by a black hairy beast.
Meanwhile, Pierre overhears Rammaendelo on the telephone to the Cardinal trying to dissuade him from performing the marriage. Angrily interrupting the conversation, Pierre cuts Rammaendelo's throat with a razor and tears the phone out of the wall.
In the continuing comic dream sequence, the beast chases Lucy through the forest. She loses most of her clothing in the process and ends up hanging by her arms from a branch, and the beast licks her and masturbates. Lucy wakes in a sweat. Was it just a dream? She tiptoes to Mathurin's room but he is asleep, fully clothed, on his bed. Lucy returns to her room, masturbates, and dreams that the beast is copulating with her. She finds she enjoys it. She wakes again and is convinced that Mathurin must have visited her. She visits his room again but he is still sleeping soundly.
Lucy eagerly returns to her dream. The beast continues to masturbate and Lucy rubs his ejaculate all over herself. Eventually the beast dies of exhaustion. Lucy wakes and walks into Mathurin's room to find him dead on the floor. She runs naked through the house screaming, and everyone runs to her aid. Virginia examines Mathurin's body and discovers that a plaster cast on his arm is concealing a claw for a hand. Pulling his clothes off reveals that he is covered in thick black hair and has a tail. They run out of the house in terror just as the Cardinal arrives to find out what is going on. Virginia comforts the terrified Lucy as they speed away in the car, and Lucy dreams that she is naked in the forest again, burying the beast.
- Titre : La Bête
- Réalisation : Walerian Borowczyk
- Scénario : Walerian Borowczyk
- Production : Anatole Dauman
- Société de production : Argos Film
- Musique : Domenico Scarlatti
- Photographie : Bernard Daillencourt et Marcel Grignon
- Montage : Walerian Borowczyk
- Décors : Jacques D'Ovidio
- Costumes : Piet Bolscher
- Pays d'origine : France
- Format : Couleurs - 1,66:1 - Mono - 16 mm
- Genre : Fantastique
- Durée : 93 minutes / 103 minutes (version longue)
- Dates de sortie : August 20 1975 (France), April 15 1977 (États-Unis)
- Film interdit aux moins de 16 ans lors de sa sortie en France
- Sirpa Lane : Romilda de l'Esperance
- Lisbeth Hummel : Lucy Broadhurst
- Elisabeth Kaza : Virginia Broadhurst
- Pierre Benedetti : Mathurin de l'Esperance
- Guy Tréjan : Pierre de l'Esperance
- Roland Armontel : le prêtre
- Marcel Dalio : Duc De Balo
- Pascale Rivault : Clarisse De l'Esperance
- Erotic films
- Beauty and the beast trope
- Animal love
- Les rêves inquiets sont réellement une folie passagère
- Werewolf fiction