The Films (4/5 (The Beast), 2.5/5 (Immoral Tales))
A little over a year ago now Arrow Video in the U.K. only released a magnificent box set containing 5 films from Walerian Borowczyk, it was released in a limited edition of 1000 copies, and was sold out before it even was released. They did release the titles individually in the U.K., but when Arrow came stateside, the question became, would the Borowczyk set come out here? The Stray Cat Rock box set certainly got a re-release. Back in May Arrow would release a non-box set Borowczyk title The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Miss Osbourne, now they have released a pair of films from the box The Beast and Immoral Tales, and if rumors are to be believed these are the only 2 films for which rights could be secured for stateside from that set. I will say it is an interesting pairing as the dream sequence from the Beast started life in the original cut of Immoral Tales as one of the shorts.
Immoral Tales is an anthology film from Borowczyk that originally consisted of 5 short films. It would eventually be cut down to 4 when the director realized that one of those shorts, The Beast, could be wrapped in a feature film setting. The films take place in a variety of time periods, and showcase various types of erotic situations. The first story in the set is called The Tide is set in the present day of when the film was produced, so the early 1970's. It involves a young man picking up his younger cousin and taking her to the beach to perform oral sex on him to the rhythm of the tide coming in. The second story is about a young woman, who stays late at her church to pray. When she returns home, she is sent to her room for 3 days with only zucchini to eat. Of course, she has an illustrated erotic book in the room with her, and the zucchinis do not get eaten. The third story is a short involving the infamous Blood Countess Elizabeth Bathory. The short opens with Bathory and her guards invading a small village for virginal women to take back to her castle. The finale of this one is shocking, bizarre, but not unexpected, and is probably the most outstanding moment of this anthology. The fourth story deals with Lucrezia Borgia in the midst of an incestual orgy with the Pope.
Immoral Tales like all anthology films hinges on the power of it's stories. None of them are outright bad, and all are wonderfully directed by Borowczyk, however, the first 2 stories feel very minor, and in a way dull compared to the power of the imagery in the latter 2. The tone varies from story to story with some feeling very serious and shocking, and others being more playful and satiric. I have often heard of Borowczyk being compared to Pier Paolo Pasolini in a favorable manner, and the tone he strikes in these pieces certainly makes a strong case for that comparision.
The Beast tells the story of an American woman named Lucy Broadhurst who has traveled to rural France to marry a horse trainer, and deformed son of a former wealthy family Mathurin de l'Esperance. She must marry him to fulfill the requirements of her late Father's will, but also after corresponding with her future husband through mail correspondence is convinced that they are in love, and because she has read a centuries old text about the estate she is about to occupy is fascinated about her future home, which she is delighted might be haunted. In the midst of this old family rivalries, and secrets come to light that should maybe have stayed in the dark.
I have watched the Beast on one other occasion. The first time I viewed it, I wasn't sure what to make of it. The film opens with actual sex between two horses, and it's very graphic. During a notorious dream sequence later in the film Borowczyk shows the viewer pseudo-beastiality with a creature that produces an absurd amount of orgasmic fluid. That being said watching it this time, I found myself taken in by the film. This is a film that falls between two extremes, it might be too artsy for a film looking for something bizarre, and too twisted and sexual for the art crowd. Borowczyk with the Beast has created something that is on it's own wavelength, if you’re on that wavelength somewhere between drama and perverse dream it is quite a ride to take.
Audio/Video (4/5, 4/5)
If you have the U.K. counterparts there are no changes here. Immoral Tales is presented in a 1:66:1 1080p AVC encoded transfer, while the Beast is presented in 1:67:1 both film have beautiful natural color schemes, excellent fine detail, and a healthy grain structure. There are some soft moments, but that could be related to the production itself.
Both films have French LPCM 2.0 track. Both tracks have audible dialogue and score. I did not detect any issues on either track.
Extras (5/5, 5/5)
Arrow has gone all the way bringing these 2 Borowczyk films to Blu-ray. Immoral Tales has an alternate cut of the film that includes the short version of the Beast. A career spanning documentary on Borowczyk, interviews, introductions, trailers and more. The Beat includes documentaries, interviews, an introduction, trailers, and more. Both include booklets with liner notes, and both have reversible covers.
Arrow Video has brought 2 very fine films by Walerian Borowczyk to U.S. shores with their Blu-ray's of the Beast and Immoral Tales. The Blu-ray's look and sound fantastic, and are fully loaded. While I do find Immoral Tales lacking a bit, the Beast is an amazing piece of cinema. The Beast comes HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, Immoral Tales is RECOMMENDED.