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La Bête Humaine (1938)
"La bête humaine" (original title)

 -  Drama  -  19 February 1940 (USA)
7.8
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Ratings: 7.8/10 from 3,755 users  
Reviews: 37 user | 25 critic

In this classic adaptation of Emile Zola's novel, a tortured train engineer falls in love with a troubled married women who has helped her husband commit a murder.

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Title: La Bête Humaine (1938)

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Cast

Cast overview, first billed only:
...
...
Séverine Roubaud
...
Roubaud (as Ledoux Sociétaire de la Comédie Française)
Blanchette Brunoy ...
Flore
Gérard Landry ...
Le fils Dauvergne (as Gerard Landry)
Jenny Hélia ...
Philomène Sauvagnat (as Jenny Helia)
Colette Régis ...
Victoire Pecqueux (as Colette Regis)
Claire Gérard ...
Une voyageuse (as Claire Gerard)
Charlotte Clasis ...
Tante Phasie, la marraine de Lantier (as Germaine Clasis)
Jacques Berlioz ...
Grandmorin (as Berlioz)
Tony Corteggiani ...
Dabadie, le chef de section (as Cortegianni)
André Tavernier ...
Le juge d'instruction Denizet
Marcel Pérès ...
Un lampiste (as Perez)
...
Cabuche
Julien Carette ...
Pecqueux (as Carette)
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Storyline

In this classic adaptation of Emile Zola's novel, a tortured train engineer falls in love with a troubled married women who has helped her husband commit a murder.

Add Full Plot | Add Synopsis

Genres:

Drama

Certificate:

Not Rated | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

 »
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Details

Country:

Language:

Release Date:

19 February 1940 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

La bête humaine  »

Company Credits

Production Co:

 »
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Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

(RCA Sound System)

Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
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Did You Know?

Trivia

Severine likes Malaga wine. Malaga is a sweet fortified wine from the Spanish city of Málaga and is made from Pedro Ximénez and Moscatel grapes. See more »

Quotes

Jacques Lantier: Pecqueux, I have to tell you something. Don't say a word and don't move. I killed her. That's right, I killed her. It's all over. I'll never see her again. It'll be the death of me, I know it. I couldn't bear to hold her anymore. I loved her, you know? I loved her little hands most of all. But there's one thing I don't get: why haven't they arrested me?
See more »

Connections

Referenced in P.R.O.F.S. (1985) See more »

Soundtracks

Le coeur de Ninon
(uncredited)
Lyrics by Maurice Nouhaud (1900)
Music by E. Becucci (from waltz "Tesoro mio")
Sung by Marcel Veyran
See more »

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User Reviews

Renoir meets Zola:up where they belong.
10 March 2002 | by See all my reviews

Jean Renoir's work has been the best of all possible cinemas in the French thirties:a ruthless bourgeois wholesale massacre (la chienne,1931,Boudu sauvé des eaux,1932),Italian neorealism ten years before Rossellini,DeSica et al(Toni,1934),cinema verité before Godard (la vie est à nous ,1936)romantic and tragic pastoral,(une partie de campagne,probably his masterpiece,1936),pacifism(la grande illusion,1937,his most overrated,thus the most popular),history (la revolution française,1938)then "la bête humaine".

"La bête humaine" is arguably the best Zola screen adaptation.Seventeenth part of the Rougon-Macquart family saga-one of the peaks of French lit in the 19th century-,this could be the best with the exceptions of "l'assommoir" and "Germinal".The hero is a son of Gervaise Macquart ,Jacques Lantier.He was not mentioned in any of the previous books,because Gervaise had only 3 children (Nana,Etienne(in Germinal) and Claude (in l'oeuvre),and Zola needed one more,so he made up this fourth child from start to finish.What he needed was a hero with a history of mental illness (stemming from alcohol).Jean Gabin portrays Jacques with a sublime conviction:the scene in which he tries to strangle Blanchette Brunoy to whom he confesses he can't help it,he can't escape the terrible fate which is in store for him.

When he meets Severine(Simone Simon,the future heroine of Tourneur's "cat people'(1942)),and is attracted by her sexually,the woman,whose husband (Fernand Ledoux) is anything but handsome, feels in deep in her perverse soul, that she's found the right killer,because she has discovered he's unable to keep his self-control .

Some scenes are absolutely unforgettable:the beginning,which films the railroad tracks as never before;the railroad men dance,during which a murder is committed while a singer is crooning an old song,"le petit coeur de Ninon";the final,faithful to Zola to a fault: a train,belting in the night,gone mad,which becomes a metaphor not only for Lantier's descent into hell,but for the country (it's 1938!) heading for the darkness.Renoir had transposed the action in th thirties.These dazzling pictures perfectly echo Zola's extraordinary lines:"Elle roulait,roulait sans fin,comme affolée de plus en plus par le bruit de son haleine"(It was rolling,endlessly rolling,as if it were more and more panic-stricken by the sound of its breath).

Remake by Fritz Lang in 1954 :"human desire" with Glenn Ford and Gloria Grahame;although I admire Fritz Lang very much,I think his effort is neatly inferior.


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