The Beast (Walerian Borowczyk / France, 1975):
(La Bête; The Beast in Heat; Death's Ecstasy)

In full command, Walerian Borowczyk promptly stakes his turf -- a Voltaire quote (troubled dreams and fleeting madness) segues into an erect horse cock. Equine fucking is documented outdoors, while wily old Marcel Dalio nourishes his "morbid fear of womanhood" in his wheelchair inside the chalet; the family fortune has long dissipated, so patriarch Guy Tréjan invites a lissome heiress (Lisbeth Hummel) to marry his son (Pierre Benedetti). Benedetti's taken out of the barn, sheared, and baptized into the human world, while Hummel rides in swathed in furs and carnal curiosity: both are newborn creatures, he forced into society and she catapulted into the animal realm. Dalio waits in vain for a call from the Vatican, banquet preparations take the servant away from the boss' horny daughter, who in frustration straddles the bed rail and rides away to completion; dinner is out of Eraserhead, for, as the wizened priest sighs, "we suffer the laws of nature, alas." Hummel is a sunny gal, who believes that nature is serious but not tragic and that champagne doesn't change the cosmos -- she becomes fascinated by the mysteries of the place, principally an ancestor's fairy-tale dalliance. Dissolve to Borowczyk's stupefying centerpiece, harpsichord tinkling competing with animalistic roars as a bewigged maiden (Sirpa Lane) is ravished by The Beast, a furry behemoth with a raging hard-on (the intense erotic wackiness is punctuated impishly with a snapshot of a snail crawling over her dainty shoe). Lane takes to the critter's geysering ejaculations and drains it of cum and life. Flashback? Dream? A deleted segment from Immoral Tales? In any case, bestial bluntness has unchained desire from civilized machinations, and at the chateau the heroine diddles herself with the rose originally employed by Tréjan to seal monetary matters. The beast's heritage is finally uncovered, though the movie is itself a missing link, bridging Cocteau with the gonzo porn of Perverted Stories, illuminating not only La Belle et la Bête but also Charles Perrault, the Brothers Grimm, and King Kong. Beauty killed the beast, Borowczyk says, and erotic poetry freed the screen. With Elisabeth Kaza, Roland Armontel, Hassane Fall, and Pascale Rivault.

--- Fernando F. Croce

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