Blu-Ray Review: Beauty and the Beast

Julie in the faded opulence

In the West, much of our knowledge of fairy tales comes courtesy of Disney. This is undoubtedly the case with Beauty and the Beast, their 1991 version of Belle and the Beast’s story becoming a box office smash and popular favourite. Replacing the critically acclaimed Jean Cocteau version from decades earlier. However, this is only the sanitised version which dates back to Gabrielle-Suzanne Barbot de Villeneuve story from 1740. Of all the adaptations, Juraj Herz’s is probably the most arresting.

After losing everything, a merchant (Václav Voska) moves to the country with his three daughters. One day, he’s forced to take refuge in an abandoned castle. The mysterious occupant (Vlastimil Harapes) leaves him food and drink, but on remembering a promise he plucks a rose for Julie (Zdena Studenková), his youngest. This incurs the wrath of his hideous host. In order to save her father’s life she replaces him and goes to live with her new captor.

Beauty and the Beast is a beguiling adaptation of the famous fairy tale which delves deep into the Gothic and horror elements of the original story. This is what makes Herz’s vision so enchanting. It mixes fantasy with nightmare to create a magical and murky world. The contrast between luxury and squalor is marked in this version of ‘the virgin and the monster’. Beauty and the Beast is a twisted and strikingly dark fable.

Special features:

  • Presented from a new HD transfer from original materials created by the Czech National Film Archive, Prague.
  • An all-new Projection Booth commentary with Samm Deighan, Kat Ellinger and Mike White.
  • František Hrubín (1964): a short film on the Czech writer and poet, and co-screenwriter of Beauty and the Beast.
  • 20-page booklet with new writing on the film by author and film historian Jonathan Owen.
  • New and improved English subtitle translation.
  • Region free Blu-ray (A/B/C)

Beauty and the Beast is released on Blu-ray by Second Run on 26 July.

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