7.7/10
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44 user 31 critic

La bête humaine (1938)

Not Rated | | Crime, Drama | 19 February 1940 (USA)
In this classic adaptation of Emile Zola's novel, a tortured train engineer falls in love with a troubled married woman who has helped her husband commit a murder.

Director:

Writers:

(novel), (screenplay)
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Cast

Cast overview, first billed only:
...
...
...
Roubaud (as Ledoux sociétaire de la Comédie-Française)
...
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)
...
...
Pecqueux (as Carette)
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Storyline

Jacques Lantier is a train engineer who is prone to violent seizures, a condition he attributes to his forefathers' habit of excessive drinking. Roubaud is a train conductor on the same railroad that Lantier works on, married to the much younger Séverine. When Roubaud catches wind of his wife's affair with her godfather, the wealthy M. Grandmorin, he kills him during a train journey in a fit of jealousy. He makes sure that Séverine is also present, making her an accomplice to murder. Lantier, despite having witnessed them quite clearly in the train corridor, hides the fact during the investigation as he is attracted to Séverine. They both begin an affair, all the while Roubaud becomes increasingly withdrawn and starts to gamble. Séverine urges Lantier to kill her husband so that they would be free but she is unaware of Lantier's unfortunate condition. Written by Soumitra

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis

Taglines:

From the novel "La Bete Humaine" a drama of consuming passions, directed by Jean Renoir

Genres:

Crime | 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

Lison is also the name of a station on the line Paris Saint-Lazare Cherbourg. See more »

Quotes

Jacques Lantier: I can't go on. I can't go on.
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Soundtracks

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

 
Porky and Bess
12 March 2006 | by See all my reviews

The point that you really could do with reading at least some of Zola's mammoth saga is well taken - I've only read Germinal so I'm afraid that lets me out. The many puzzling bits in the plot would probably not be: why such fleeting references to ancestral drunkeness and epilepsy, what happened to Cabuche, were Jacques and Bess in a serious sexual relationship?

Basically outraged and cuckolded middle-aged husband murders beautiful young wife's childhood ancient sugar daddy, she (Simon) drifts into stocky Gabin's and/or a lithe young man's arms, sex and violence result as surely as the earthy pre-War French trains ran on time. Some marvellously atmospheric nitrate b&w photography even when under the arc-lights, some scintillating and also some surprisingly clumsy framings from Renoir, some tremendous acting from the leads and trains, some brief but jarring full orchestral incidental music, and what are we left with all these decades later? A clever, well-made, entertaining and then-popular now relatively ignored (IMDB eg Bete Humaine 17 Amelie 1033) film applauded to the rafters as Art because it's Renoir. There could be no other outcome for this film - it was Fated to be Art after all!

It's very good and been one of my favourites for decades now, not as essential mind furniture but more as an enjoyably engrossing proto-noir romp with subtitles.


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