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La Bete Humaine (The Criterion Collection) (1940)

Jacques Berlioz , Jacques Brunius , Jean Renoir  |  Unrated |  DVD
4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (20 customer reviews)

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Product Details

  • Actors: Jacques Berlioz, Jacques Brunius, Blanchette Brunoy, Julien Carette, Charlotte Clasis
  • Directors: Jean Renoir
  • Format: Multiple Formats, Black & White, Mono, Full Screen, NTSC, Subtitled
  • Language: French, English
  • Subtitles: English
  • Region: Region 1 (U.S. and Canada only. Read more about DVD formats.)
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated: Unrated
  • Studio: Criterion
  • DVD Release Date: February 14, 2006
  • Run Time: 100 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (20 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B000C8Q8ZQ
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #190,431 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)
  • Learn more about "La Bete Humaine (The Criterion Collection)" on IMDb

Special Features


Editorial Reviews

Based on the classic Emile Zola novel, Jean Renoir's La bete humaine was one of the legendary director's greatest popular successes, tapping into the fatalism of a nation in despair. Jean Gabin's emblematic portrayal of doomed train engineer Jacques Lantier granted him a permanent place in the hearts of his countrymen. Part poetic realism, part film noir, the film is a hard-boiled and suspenseful journey into the tormented psyche of a workingman. SPECIAL FEATURES: New, restored high-definition digital transfer of the original uncut version. Introduction to the film by Jean Renoir. New interview with director Peter Bogdanovich. Archival interviews with Renoir discussing his adaptation of Emile Zola's novels, his process with actors, and directing actress Simone Simon. Gallery of on-set photographs and theatrical posters. Theatrical trailer. New and improved English subtitle translation. A booklet featuring writings by film critic Geoffrey O'Brien, historian Ginette Vincendeau, and production designer Eugene Lourie.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
20 of 20 people found the following review helpful
For the first seven minutes of La Bete Humaine we're in the open cab of a huge steam engine barreling down the tracks at 60 miles an hour from Le Havre to Paris. The only sounds are the roar of the wind and the wheels on the rails. One crew member is hurling shovels-full of coal into the fire box. The other is checking the gauges, pulling a lever, sticking his head out the side to look ahead. The engineer is dressed in dirty coveralls, a greasy cloth cap on his head, protective goggles pushed up on his forehead. The wind rushes over him. We can't hear a thing because of the noise. Sometimes we catch a glimpse of him framed for a moment against the sky. The engineer is Jacques Lantier (Jean Gabin). Controlling that huge engine and driving it at speed is what has given his life any meaning. Some film critics say this was one of the movies the early noir directors in the Forties must have seen. Perhaps, but this film transcends the genre.

Lantier is a taciturn working man, not disliked but lonely. He suffers spells of headaches, fever, of "waves of grief," of violent seizures he blames on the alcoholism of his parents. He wears the sadness of life like a cloak on his shoulders. One night, as a passenger on the train returning to Le Havre, he sees the Le Havre station master, Roubard (Fernand Ledoux), and his wife, Severine (Simone Simon), on board. Roubard, jealous of his younger wife, has just killed a man in the man's train compartment. Lantier, looking at Severine, provides a statement that avoids implicating either her or her husband, but then fatefully finds himself falling in love with her. And Severine? "I am incapable of loving anyone," she tells Lantier. But Lantier moves into a passionate affair with her, a relationship which Lantier needs and which Severine uses.
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21 of 22 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Mystery Train March 10, 2003
Format:VHS Tape
Although the identifying phrase "Film Noir" was yet to be used for another few decades, Jean Renoir's "La Bete Humaine" could arguably be considered one of the genre's blueprints. In fact, aside from the over-melodramatic music score, this naturalistic 1938 thriller looks and feels very contemporary. Jean Gabin is quite effective as the brooding train engineer plagued by "blackouts" in which he commits acts of uncontrollable violence, usually precipitated by moments of passion (Freudians will have a field day with all the point-of-view camerawork showing Gabin chugging his big, powerful locomotive through long dark tunnels). The beautiful Simone Simon sets the mold for all future Femme Fatales with an earthy, Sophia Loren-type sexuality not usually found in movies from the 1930's. In fact, it would be another 30 years or so before American crime films like "In Cold Blood" and "Bonnie And Clyde" would adapt a similar blend of adult language, sexuality and unflinching violence (in 1938, Hollywood was too busy pumping out Shirley Temple movies). Moody cinematography and a general existential malaise certainly doesn't make this a "feel good" popcorn movie, but fans of classic Noir will be fascinated. (Note: this film was remade in 1954 as "Human Desire").
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A full package November 10, 2006
Format:DVD|Verified Purchase
I'm not a great fan of Renoir, but here his style works well. He's good at photography, and usually weak on story flow - too loaded with sentiment. This heavy theme works well under his control. The print is generally good, and the extras are copius and very interesting. The psychological depictions feel authentic. Gabin's character is difficult to understand. This is not a flaw, because he is like so many real people I've encountered, difficult to understand because of their internal conflicts. His conflicts have been controlled and muted by limiting his life's focus to the train. Although his sidekick sometimes border on the "straight man", he never quite goes over the line. It contrasts well with the deep darkness of Gabin's character.

In summary: A great movie, a good repro, and a fine disc set.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars One of the First Film Noir! August 3, 2010
Don't try to get a homicidal maniac to try to kill your husband, especially if he prefers women. A wonderful fun film filled with great shots of train rides from the engine room. Jean Gabin is a man with an urge to kill women. Simone Simon is a woman who has been sexually abused by her godfather through adolescence and her husband doesn't like it. Everyone is working class, works hard and doesn't exactly do anything past struggle for the best life possible. Thus sets the stage for a Film Noir from France. A dark sad tale of people who aren't able to control their lives very much and their efforts to control their lives are usually destructive and damaging. Jean Renoir's most profitable film and most conventional in some sense but in another, he helped invent a new genre of film. The story is initially one from Emile Zola so the setting of the story is paramount and the characters are reactors to their surroundings. Really entertaining and clever.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Zola's tale of passionate doom done brilliantly by Renoir February 21, 2006
By Bomojaz
A passionate story of illicit love that can only end tragically - and it does. Jean Gabin is a train engineer who witnesses a murder on the train: a jealous and brutal husband (Fernand Ledoux) has killed his boss in a fit of jealousy after he learns that his wife (Simone Simon) has slept with him to get her husband his job. Suspecting Gabin has seen the murder take place, he sends Simone to him to "convince" him to keep his mouth shut about it, and before long he and Simon are lovers. Typically, the lovers conclude that the only way they can be together as they wish is to do away with Ledoux, but Gabin can't bring himself to do it.

Early in the film it's hinted that Gabin had once suffered from depression with destructive impulses, and now this comes into play; however, he kills Simone instead of Ledoux. Gabin then commits suicide by leaping from his speeding train. Gabin is fascinating in his role, as is the beautiful Simone - their love scenes are passionate without being overdone. In fact, the entire cast rivets out attention throughout the movie. The train sequences - all filmed on location with no back projections - are powerful and exciting. Renoir's direction is also superb. An excellent movie; definitely worth a watch.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars English: The Human Beast and Judas Was a Woman
Probably one of the greatest train scenes ever put on film. Jean Gabin was superb. Later redone in 1954 by director Fritz Lang as "Human Desire", a film noir with Glenn... Read more
Published 1 day ago by Bartok Kinski
5.0 out of 5 stars Masters of the Twentieth Century: Renoir and Zola
La Bete Humaine is one of the great 20th century works of art, combining the searing dark world of Emile Zola's novel with Jean Renoir's brilliant filmmaking. Read more
Published 24 months ago by julia andrews
5.0 out of 5 stars Great package of moody memorable film
"La Bete Humaine" is one of my favourites of all Emile Zola's novels. This famous film version, directed by Jean Renoir in 1938, is a clever adaption of the main characters in the... Read more
Published on March 9, 2011 by Douglas M
4.0 out of 5 stars Worth Seeing for Gabin's Muscular, Magnetic Performance
"La Bete Humaine" (1938). This classic black and white French film, a bleak drama on the grand scale, was directed by the legendary Jean Renoir (Jean Renoir 3-Disc Collector's... Read more
Published on July 24, 2010 by Stephanie De Pue
5.0 out of 5 stars This is one beast of a film...
A startling look at the inner demons of mankind, Jean Renoir's tragic film noir `La Bete Humaine' is one of the finest additions to cinema. Read more
Published on November 3, 2009 by Andrew Ellington
5.0 out of 5 stars La Bete Humaine
A really slick movie. I didn't know anything about it but took a chance on buying it and am very glad I did. Good pic.
Published on June 24, 2009 by Michael D. Cannon
5.0 out of 5 stars Renoir's La Bete Humaine
Jean Renoir's moody adaptation of Emile Zola's book features one of Gabin's seminal pre-war performances, and an arresting turn by the sexy Simon (who'd venture stateside four... Read more
Published on June 25, 2007 by John Farr
3.0 out of 5 stars Weird film, but the ride on the train was great
Jean Renoir made his version of Zola's novel. What is fun here is the fabulous sights we see while on the train thru France. Beatiful b&w photography, mind you. Read more
Published on January 26, 2007 by
4.0 out of 5 stars trains, trains, and more trains
One of the first symbols they teach you about in film critic school (Symbolism Clichés 101) is the big, black locomotive, which represents male sexual libido. Read more
Published on January 17, 2007 by Kevin W. Koehler
5.0 out of 5 stars Possibly Renoir's finest film
La Bete Humaine is my favorite Renoir and one which tends to divide many of his critics and admirers. Read more
Published on December 16, 2006 by Trevor Willsmer
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