Winningly grotesque bestial-sex comedy The Beast works best when it’s a shockingly vivid porno rather than a sleepy the-rich-eat-themselves satire.
Writer/director Walerian Borowczyk (Behind Convent Walls) wastes too much time establishing the frivolous concerns of his endemically repressed aristocrats. But once Borowczyk focuses on mocking his absurd characters’ sexual frustration through masochistic dreams of liveried butlers, crushed flower petals, and werewolf rape, The Beast becomes a frothing-at-the-mouth artsploitation juggernaut.
Apart from being orgiastically disgusting, the sex scenes viscerally establish Borowczyk’s misanthropic interest in Lucy (Lisbeth Hummel), an airheaded English heiress who dreams of being ravished by a rabid wolf-monster who may or may not be Mathurin (Pierre Benedetti), her painfully shy — and probably inbred — betrothed. Borowczyk imagines that upper-class repression makes horny monsters out of overprotected women by juxtaposing Lucy’s frantic lupine fantasies with the masturbatory dissatisfaction of Mathurin’s sister Clarisse (Pascale Rivault), a lustful Frenchwoman whose butler lover always gets off, then leaves her to top herself.
But because Borowczyk mocks Lucy and Clarisse’s insatiable lust in order to dehumanize their puritanical upbringing, the scene where Lucy flings off her corset and services her dream-lover’s self-lubricating cannon isn’t liberating, but rather a repulsive kind of slut-shaming. Thankfully, the film’s hateful social commentary can be overlooked during its beguiling gonzo sex scenes.