Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Beauty and the Beast (1976) Review

Continuing with my previous posts, I wanna discuss another well known adaptation of Beauty and the Beast. Though not regarded by many to be the best nor the worst, this 70's production includes some interesting casting choices and beautiful locations among other notable factors. Let's dance into a look around the 1976 version starring George C. Scott and his wife Trish Van Devere.

First and foremost as mentioned, our two leads in real life were married when filming this, making their chemistry the most realistic one could get when looking for an on-screen couple. Many times you can see the spark between Scott and Devere, though sometimes knowing this fact makes the film's romantic aspect a little bit awkward, especially when it comes to the sequences that involve our leading man screaming off in anger.

Speaking of which, this could indeed be the first version in which the Beast truly has severe anger management issues, something that became more included as a major plot point in future versions (notably the Disney adaptation, which started the permanent trend of that being one of the reasons for his transformation!) But while Disney's Beast gets fussy and chases her out of the house from time to time, this Beast (or Sir Gentle Eyes as Belle refers him to) instead creeps the hell out of our leading lady to the point of her being psychologically damaged in the beginning. This sequences plus moments of the Beast snapping back at Belle with incredible sass make him unlikable overall.

Belle though falls into a similar category, but at least she does something similar to the Josette Day version of 1946 and Disney's 1991 heroine: She defends herself. Sure, she's initially scared but she gets control over her captor and makes him feel awful at the end of his temper tantrums. This Belle also has the distinction of being the only truly feminist version on film, telling the Beast that his liking of Aristotle is ridiculous, especially since she doesn't believe herself to be the woman the famous writer describes. (In short, Belle describes Aristotle to have what us modern day gals would call "Nice Guy Syndrome".)

But Belle is definitely not perfect either. This incarnation of our leading beauty is actually one that quotes herself to only believe in the true stories and no fantasies. Sure, her family believes in old wives tales from time to time, but even when being asked simply to hear the story of a Unicorn, she refuses to be told the story unless it is deemed true.

Now granted this could be a reflection of her honesty, but at times with the way Trish delivers her lines comes off bitchy and cold hearted, something that is hard to swallow from a character that is supposed to ask for something as delicate as a rose.

But one thing that should be given credit to this version is it's age choices. Realistically, when reading the original tale and knowing the time period it was written in, I always thought the "prince" at the end would be an older and more mature man, someone who would be wealthy and able to support a girl this age. As this story was considered by most to be meant for young brides in arranged marriages, it would indeed make sense for the Beast to turn into a man in his middle age.

So while most adaptations one would expect a handsome young dashing Prince, we get a middle aged bigger King character, which though not exactly one of the fantasies of most young women works in its context and is more realistic - something that relates to this Belle's method of thinking. Though oddly, on the last shot of the film, we see that Belle's face is puzzled. Not sure if this facial expression was intentional, but it oddly seems as if this wasn't the complete happy ending she was hoping for.

So at the end of the day, is this version good? Eh. It has it's moments, but with a truly bizarre choices in acting on both the talents parts it's hardly a classic really. Sure, I like the risks that it takes but compared to the Cocteau and Disney versions, it's a downgrade for sure. Though it definitely stands much above the Cannon Films by a long shot. 

So if you're willing to take a slightly more "serious" adaptation with a lot less of the whimsy and childlike views of the more memorable versions, take a look for this one. Just don't be surprised if you have an urge to look for a hug after it, especially after hearing General Patton scream at Belle through most of it. Definitely post-movie cuddles required to regain your mushy side. 

Rating: 6.0 out of 10




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