It’s Just the Beast in Me

Jean Cocteau's Beauty and the BeastToday’s subject of mine is almost an adjunct to my last post about women being carried off by various creatures in movies.  I noticed that one of tonight’s TCM guest programmer Whoopi Goldberg’s choices was the 1946 Jean Cocteau version of Beauty and the Beast.  Just about the moment I tuned in tonight–late–the beautiful Belle was being carried, unconscious, into the Beast’s castle, by the Beast.  A classic fairy tale carry, to be sure!  Though of course every little girl these days seems to have grown up with the Disney animated version of the tale, with its sumptuous colors and song score, previous generations have thrilled to this same appealing story in other interesting versions.

There’s more than a little ambivalence in many female minds and when the assorted beasts– in all their feral magnificence and often looking like big The Beast in Cocteau's Beauty and the Beastpussycats–transform back into mere handsome mortal men.  Putting aside the obvious cultural taboos against bestiality (which probably really may not apply here because these are man-sized creatures, and not German Shepherds or well-equipped equines), there’s an equally strong bias Poster for Jean Cocteau's Beauty and the Beastagainst so-called ugliness.  Even an insipid good-looking prince is better than a monster, or so the conventional wisdom goes.  How many little and not so little girls have been bitterly disappointed when, in Cocteau’s version, the shimmering beauty Josette Day doesn’t end up with the magnificently furry Beast but instead the conventionally-handsome prince of Jean Marais?  Nothing against Marais, but it’s a letdown.

There’s a cheapie Beauty and the Beast version from 1962, where actor Mark The Mark Damon Version of Beauty and the BeastDamon is the Beast, an unfortunate chap who is only a beast at night when he turns into a werewolf.  In 1987, actor John Savage and actress Rebecca De Mornay starred together in a musical version made by Cannon Pictures as part of their series of movie adaptations of famous fairy tales.  Some of the visuals made homage to the Cocteau vision of the tale, a nice touch which was probably lost on most of the kiddy viewers of the film.

Television has been a little more successful with its adaptations of the tale.  In  1976, George C. Scott and Beauty and the Beast with George C. Scotthis then-wife Trish Van Devere starred in a Hallmark Hall of Fame production of the tale, a version that was Emmy-nominated (including Scott’s performance) and fondly remembered.  Scott’s Beast looked closer to a warthog than anything feline, but it was obviously a treat to have a fine actor such as George C. Scott starring in the classic tale, and opposite his real-life spouse.  An inspired bit of casting!

Kinski and Sarandon in Beauty and the BeastIn 1984, Shelley Duval’s acclaimed Faerie Tale Theatre series on Showtime did a fascinating version of the tale starring Klaus Kinski as the Beast and Susan Sarandon as Beauty.  Kinski had a look very similar to the Beast in the Cocteau version in this one, and this is an interesting opportunity to see this intriguing and intense actor in a very different setting.

The updated Beauty and the Beast TV series set in NewLinda Hamilton & Ron Perlman in TV's BatB York City became a cult sensation in 1987, starring Linda Hamilton (three years after her first Terminator appearance) and Ron Perlman.  Perlman’s Beast–named Vincent–was a noble character and the series was basically a star-crossed lovers tale, heavy on the romance and still immensely popular today with loyal fans who’d love to see more of this Beast and his spunky Beauty. 

16 Responses It’s Just the Beast in Me
Posted By janet : November 1, 2007 10:49 pm

I can watch this film over and over and over again.  Perhaps it's my subconscious desire to have the beast myself….more likely it's the continued surprises like Whoopie mentioned. The close up footage, when he drinks from bete's hands is remarkable.  around his eyes you can see no flesh at all.  incredibly realistic without the wild animation techniques of today's cinema.   As well, i had forgotten about the scene when belle puts on his glove to 'travel' to her father's home…..the way she appears, right out of the wall.  it's absolutely brilliant and takes my breath away.  how I love this film…. 

Posted By janet : November 1, 2007 10:49 pm

I can watch this film over and over and over again.  Perhaps it's my subconscious desire to have the beast myself….more likely it's the continued surprises like Whoopie mentioned. The close up footage, when he drinks from bete's hands is remarkable.  around his eyes you can see no flesh at all.  incredibly realistic without the wild animation techniques of today's cinema.   As well, i had forgotten about the scene when belle puts on his glove to 'travel' to her father's home…..the way she appears, right out of the wall.  it's absolutely brilliant and takes my breath away.  how I love this film…. 

Posted By Chris : November 2, 2007 12:54 pm

Would you say then that the movie SHREK turned this idea on its' head?  Now if the prince were a good-looking little thing and the princess the beast, the pyschology would really have taken a serious turn as opposed to the slight variation on a theme angle that it took. SHREK II on the other hand explored this much more effectively. How would you say these films fit into the ouevre?

Posted By Chris : November 2, 2007 12:54 pm

Would you say then that the movie SHREK turned this idea on its' head?  Now if the prince were a good-looking little thing and the princess the beast, the pyschology would really have taken a serious turn as opposed to the slight variation on a theme angle that it took. SHREK II on the other hand explored this much more effectively. How would you say these films fit into the ouevre?

Posted By Veronica : November 3, 2007 1:40 pm

I saw this movie near the end but I loved it. I want to watch it from the start again and see what I missed. I really want to know if this movie is going to re-run in a while. I liked the beast and his acting more than the prince, the story is very different and much more intricate from the disney animation which I am familiar with but overall its a very good moive to watch even when the effects are not so up to date.

Posted By Veronica : November 3, 2007 1:40 pm

I saw this movie near the end but I loved it. I want to watch it from the start again and see what I missed. I really want to know if this movie is going to re-run in a while. I liked the beast and his acting more than the prince, the story is very different and much more intricate from the disney animation which I am familiar with but overall its a very good moive to watch even when the effects are not so up to date.

Posted By Rick J : November 4, 2007 10:55 pm

Of all the versions I have seen, which is most of them, this is the true Fantasy!

Posted By Rick J : November 4, 2007 10:55 pm

Of all the versions I have seen, which is most of them, this is the true Fantasy!

Posted By Bryan : November 5, 2007 12:19 am

I did not like this movie at all. I put it in the same catagory as another highly lauded "masterpiece" such as Caligula and The Canterbury Tales, which is to say truly AWFUL.

Posted By Bryan : November 5, 2007 12:19 am

I did not like this movie at all. I put it in the same catagory as another highly lauded "masterpiece" such as Caligula and The Canterbury Tales, which is to say truly AWFUL.

Posted By Bryan : November 5, 2007 12:24 am

Additional comments: when Whoopie recommends a movie mark it off your list. The same could be said of Oprah most of the time if she recommends a book forget it. Although she did get it right when she suggested Steinbeck's East of Eden and McCullers' The Heart is a Lonely Hunter.

Posted By Bryan : November 5, 2007 12:24 am

Additional comments: when Whoopie recommends a movie mark it off your list. The same could be said of Oprah most of the time if she recommends a book forget it. Although she did get it right when she suggested Steinbeck's East of Eden and McCullers' The Heart is a Lonely Hunter.

Posted By Mark : November 5, 2007 4:47 pm

Bryan,I never heard anybody say CALIGULA was a masterpiece….never. ANYONE. And to mention it with Cocteau´s Beauty and the Beast is a joke, right? We´re talking about the grand canyon of difference here.

Posted By Mark : November 5, 2007 4:47 pm

Bryan,I never heard anybody say CALIGULA was a masterpiece….never. ANYONE. And to mention it with Cocteau´s Beauty and the Beast is a joke, right? We´re talking about the grand canyon of difference here.

Posted By JLIAG : November 9, 2007 11:49 pm

You can also see the influence of this movie in Coppola's Dracula.

Posted By JLIAG : November 9, 2007 11:49 pm

You can also see the influence of this movie in Coppola's Dracula.

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