Dedications: My four late friends Rory, Stan, Bryan, Jeff - shine on you crazy diamonds, they would have blogged too. Then theres Garry from Brisbane, Franco in Milan, Mike now in S.F. / my '60s-'80s gang: Ned & Joseph in Ireland; in England: Frank, Des, Guy, Clive, Joe & Joe, Ian, Ivan, Nick, David, Les, Stewart, the 3 Michaels / Catriona, Sally, Monica, Jean, Ella, Anne, Candie / and now: Daryl in N.Y., Jerry, John, Colin, Martin and Donal.

Wednesday, 29 January 2014

Ortonesque: Mr Sloane's loot

1970 saw the release of the two films based on Joe Orton's hit '60s plays LOOT and ENTERTAINING MR SLOANE. Both are outrageous black comedies and were very successful plays, but maybe they were too black and unconventional for movies then, as it seemed the film-makers did not know what to make of them, and even tried to camp up LOOT so the film now is a grotesque piece, not helped by the casting of the two male leads.
I saw the London production of the play in 1967 (programme, left), when 21, when the two boys were young Simon Ward and Kenneth Cranham, and it was a brilliant production, at the Criterion Theatre in Piccadilly Circus, that little theatre with white tile walls and you go downstairs to it, so it rather resembles a gentleman's public toilet, quite apt in the circumstances. Orton was of course the enfant terrible of theatre then, being hailed as a new working-class Oscar Wilde from Leicester, ENTERTAINING MR SLOANE had been a hit in 1964 - I remember being 18 and walking past the theatre, but had not started my theatre-going just yet then, so I was determined to see LOOT on the stage. Orton also wrote WHAT THE BUTLER SAW and tv productions like THE RUFFIAN ON THE STAIR - all brilliantly funny to read now - and was supposed to script a film for The Beatles, all of which he wrote very funnily about in his explicit diaries, which are a marvellous read of the time, detailing his gay exploits (that Irish labourer in a deserted house, boys in Morocco etc) and his holidays with Kenneth Williams, and that last weekend of his in Brighton when he was looking at houses to buy, as he was planning to leave his long time lover Kenneth Halliwell. 
Unfortunately, he was not to know that Halliwell would kill him and then himself, on his return to their studio in Islington, London that weekend in August 1967. I was on the coast too that weekend, in Hastings in Sussex, with friends - and it was the big story that weekend, in all the papers, so that was his career and talent snuffed out at age 34. Stephen Frear's 1987 film PRICK UP YEAR EARS, based on the Orton diaries and Jack Laar's book, and scripted by Alan Bennett, covers it all in detail, with great performances from Gary Oldman and Alfred Molina, ably supported by the likes of Vanessa Redgrave, Frances Barber, Lindsay Duncan and Julie Walters.

So, to the films: LOOT: Dennis (Hywel Bennett) and Hal (Roy Holder) are inseperable. They are also irreverent, boisterous, highly sexed and eager to acquire a quick fortune by the most expedient method - robbing a bank. Only problem is where to hide their loot - fortunately Dennis works as an undertaker's assistant, so a coffin seems the perfect place to hide it. But from the moment they try to fit a body (Hal's mother who has conveniently died) and the money in the coffin, plans go wrong, and soon the boys have a lot of trouble on their hands as the dreaded Inspector Trustcott (Richard Attenborough) arrives to investigate, and then there is the devious, gold digging nurse (Lee Remick) who was looking after the deceased, and maybe planning to marry the widower, Hal's father (Milo O'Shea) or maybe Dennis himself, whom she has been carrying on with. 

This is all jazzed up with the most hideous set imaginable, a dreadful music soundtrack that never stops, Lee Remick does her best and some of Orton's witty lines survive the Galton & Simpson script, but why is she got up to look like Jean Harlow with peroxide hair and a beauty spot, and sporting that hilarious Irish accent? The boys seem all wrong too - Bennett was unaccountably popular at the time (THE FAMILY WAY, THE BUTTERCUP CHAIN, TWISTED NERVE, PERCY) but Holder looks terrible in that awful wig, neither are in the least appealing. One of the few amusing moments is Lee's nurse pulling up Hywel's underpants over his bare bum. Milo is a lot of fun as usual, and I had forgotten comedian Dick Emery is also in it. Add in the missing eyeball, and the body being moved around, and the boys (Dennis is meant to be bisexual, while Hal is gay) robbing the bank naked (so no evidence on their clothes!) and it all gets sillier and sillier, and looks like one of those dreadful early '70s British efforts like DORIAN GRAY, GOODBYE GEMINI, ALL COPPERS ARE, etc. - as we detail at Trash/London labels. 
The play is the thing here, not this awful movie. Director Silvio Narrizano though had hits with his GEORGY GIRL in 1966 and that odd Terence Stamp western BLUE, as well as a prolific tv career. 

ENTERTAINING MR SLOANE, also 1970, fares a lot better, as directed by Douglas Hickox, with sterling performances by Beryl Reid and Harry Andrews, who play the material 'straight' without the need to camp it up, as that eager brother and sister wanting to get their hands on the thuggish young Mr Sloane - Peter McEnery is a good choice here. Everyone's lack of morals is nicely detailed as Kath (Beryl) and shady businessman Ed (Harry) lock horns over the sexy young lodger Sloane.
Sloane, a handsome, sexy and completely amoral young man, joins Kath's household as a lodger and proceeds to manipulate her and her brother, Ed. He is recognized by Kemp (Dadda) as the murderer of Kemp's former employer, whereupon Sloane murders Kemp. Sloane's "just desserts" are not what one would expect.
Harry Andrews is perfect here, eagerly hiring Sloane as his chauffeur, and Beryl Reid has another great comic role after her stage and screen success in THE KILLING OF SISTER GEORGE, and she certainly goes to town with it here (in that see-through day-glo mini-dress) as she and Andrews provide a comic masterclass in how to play this kind of material. I also saw Beryl reprising her Kath role on the stage in a Royal Court 1975 production with Malcolm McDowell dangerously menacing in leather as Sloane (right).  I had seen McEnery as HAMLET - in Leicester! - around then, and of course he was Boy Barrett in VICTIM, and those films with Hayley Mills, Jane Fonda, Claudia Cardinale, Glenda Jackson etc. We also saw him SHADOW OF A GUNMAN at the Young Vic and he was later in a revival of A LITTLE NIGHT MUSIC in the late 80s, but his last credit was in 2008.
So, the film of MR SLOANE is still good fun, LOOT is just simply dreadful.

Sunday, 26 January 2014

London theatre update ...

Two interesting new productions coming up, after recently seeing revivals of MOJO in the west end, and the hilarious ONCE A CATHOLIC up in the wilds of Kilburn High Road (see Theatre label). Fascinating to see Angela Lansbury at 88 back on the London stage, in a new production of Noel Coward's BLITHE SPIRIT, which she played a year or two ago on Broadway with Rupert Everett (below), whom we liked here last year as Oscar Wilde in David Hare's THE JUDAS KISS - as per reviews at Theatre label. Madame Arcati is quite a physical role, if not a very big one, as played by Margaret Rutherford in David Lean's perfect film of the play in 1946. 

Angela of course has been a favourite of ours for a long time, as per label, in movies since 1944 - the year before I was born - and must have worked with just about everyone, from being mean to Judy Garland in THE HARVEY GIRLS in 1946, to co-starring with Tracy and Hepburn in STATE OF UNION in 1948, often playing much older than her years. In the '50s she co-starred in programmers with Randolph Scott and Tony Curtis, as well as with Danny Kaye in the still funny THE COURT JESTER, with the Harrisons (Rex and Kay Kendall) in Minnelli's THE RELUCTANT DEBUTANTE in 1958 - a firm favourite here, below - and with Sophia Loren and so many more, with Lee Remick in THE LONG HOT SUMMER in '58, Sondheim's ANYONE CAN WHISTLE in '64 and a tv movie THE GIFT OF LOVE ...then there was her trio of fearsome mothers, to Elvis Presley, Warren Beatty and Brandon de Wilde in another favourite, Frankenheimer's 1962 ALL FALL DOWN, which in turn led to her monster mother of zombie Laurence Harvey in Frankenheimer's enduring classic (no, I didn't want to see the remake) THE MANCHURIAN CANDIDATE, also 1962. Frankenheimer had to convince Sinatra that she would be right for the role, despite being just 3 years older than Harvey!.
We saw her in London several times in the '70s - At the RSC (Royal Shakespeare Company) in Albee's ALL OVER in 1972, sharing the stage with Peggy Ashcroft as respectively the mistress and wife of a dying tycoon; she also did a GYPSY which I somehow missed, but we saw her at the BFI's National Film Theatre for one of those Q&A afternoon sessions, where she was a big draw. Luckily we got our tickets in time. I am sure everyone will want to see her now in BLITHE SPIRIT. I never watched her MURDER SHE WROTE series at the time, being too young for that kind of stuff and out a lot, but its amusing catching up with them now, if only for the amazing guest stars. She also lived in Ireland for some time - she is a perfect Irish granny in the 2004 film of Colm Toibin's THE BLACKWATER LIGHTSHIP.. We like also her hilarious turn in 1970's SOMETHING FOR EVERYONE, an instant gay classic ! as per reviews at Angela, Michael York, gay interest labels).

Away from the west end, fringe theatre has another interesting offering: a new play at the small space upstairs at the famous Royal Court Theatre in Sloane Square. THE PASS by John Donnelly is about gay footballers who stay in the closet at what cost to themselves  .... a hot potato here, as hardly any main Premier League footballers have come out. It may be rather different for Tom Daley in the more rarified world of swimming and diving.  It has been getting good reviews and may be sold out. I can only see tickets on offer for day release at 9.00am on-line for Mondays, so we will try and get some for sometime in Feburary, it is currently only on until 1 March.

The attraction here is the lead is played by one of our best known out actors, Russell Tovey - one of THE HISTORY BOYS and busy on television (popping up in that new series LOOKING as well). 
It is about two footballers and how they change over 3 acts, also featuring the Tovey character's wife and an eager hotel bellboy. 
 I was last at the Theatre Royal Upstairs back in 1968, when 22, for a gayish production called A GAME CALLED ARTHUR, with another young actor going places - young Timothy Dalton, who in that small space, was right in front of me. He was one of the most stunning men ever - a few months later of course he opened in THE LION IN WINTER.

RIP continued

Phil Everly (1939-2013), aged 74 - one half of the Everly Brothers, the most important vocal duo in rock, who had a string of close-harmony hits including "Wake Up Little Suzie", "Cathy's Clown", "Bye Bye Love", and "All I Have To Do Is Dream", in their heyday between 1957-1962. As influential as Buddy Holly and the other great rockers of the era, their country-influenced rock in turn influenced the Beach Boys, The Beatles, Simon & Garfunkel, The Eagles and others. They also teamed up again in the '80s for successful tours.

Pete Seeger (1919-2013), aged 94 - American folk singer and legend, spanning The Weavers in the 1940s and blacklisted in the mid-1950s at the height of McCarthyism, his great protest songs of the '60s when he was a key figure in the folk revival: "We Shall Overcome" and "Where have all the flowers gone" (which Marlene Dietrich used as a staple in her act), to singing with Bruce Springsteen at President Obama's inauguration in 2009. Another American legend gone.

Juanita Moore (1914-2013), aged 99 - another great age achieved by the actress who played the black maid to Lana Turner in the 1959 Douglas Sirk camp classic IMITATION OF LIFE (left, with passing for white daughter, Susan Kohner), Juanita had a long career, often uncredited, turning up in films like THE GIRL CAN'T HELP IT (below), QUEEN BEE, THE OPPOSITE SEX and had an extensive career in television.
Simon Hoggart (1946-2013), aged 67 after a long battle against pancreatic cancer. English journalist and broadcaster. He wrote on politics for "The Guardian", and on wine for "The Spectator". Until 2006 he presented "The News Quiz" on Radio 4. We liked his witty, satirical columns dissecting the English political classes.

Monday, 20 January 2014

The travelling lady

I just had to buy an expensive book on Lee Remick, one of our favourite actresses, which turned out to be good value, as it is a comprehensive biography (below) with full details of her career on film, stage and television, and it led me to a terrific interview with her, in 1988, where she looks back at her career and comments on all her roles, "while curled up on a sofa at her mother's apartment in Park Avenue" (she died in 1991). This is in the November 1988 issue of "Films In Review", that compact size terrific little magazine (I had a few copies back then) which I easily located on eBay, for a fair price. 
Its been a season of Lee Remick discoveries, what with the BBC magazines "Radio Times" covering her BBC roles in SUMMER AND SMOKE, THE AMBASSADORS and THE VISION - as per Remick label; and then Roddy McDowall's home movies where she features several times, at Malibu in that 1965 summer (below) .... so I have gone back to some of her films. First up: BABY THE RAIN MUST FALL, Robert Mulligan's neat drama from 1965, which we have posted about here before ...

Steve McQueen and Lee Remick ignite sparks in this impassioned drama about a rootless drifter and the woman who loves him. We first see Georgette with her small daughter on the bus to Columbus, Texas, where she joins her husband Henry who has just been paroled from the state penitentiary. He was serving time for stabbing a man in a drunken brawl. He hopes now to have a career as a songwriter as he returns to singing and playing his guitar in rowdy roadhouses. Slim (Don Murrary) is Henry's childhood friend and now the deputy sheriff and he now grows attached to Georgette and the child and does what he can to keep the volatile Henry in line. But when Henry's tantrums become increasingly more violent, Slim is forced to stop him, bringing the film to an unexpected climax.

This all looks marvellous in that perfect black and white photography of the time and is the equal to those other Mulligan-Pakula films of the era: TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD and LOVE WITH THE PROPER STRANGER, and it also has another just right Elmer Bernstein score. It is based on Horton Foote's play "The Travelling Lady" and is another perfect role for Remick, full of that yearning longing, as good as her role in WILD RIVER, and captures that small town, rural America perfectly - like William Inge territory in THE STRIPPER and BUS RILEY IS BACK IN TOWN.  There is also a hint of American Gothic in Henry's childhood demons and that creepy house where he was abused by his domineering aunt ...

I love this photo of Lee and Kate
I have a few days in Ireland coming up now, but when I get back, its on to: A DELICATE BALANCE, Tony Richardson's 1973 version of Edward Albee, with the powerhouse cast of Katharine Hepburn, Paul Scofield, Remick, Betsy Blair and Kate Reid; LOOT - the very funny 1970 version of Joe Orton's black farce where Lee is deliriously funny as the nurse, got up to look like Jean Harlow and with a comic Irish accent; and that 1975 rarity HENNESSY, and one of her later tv movies: EMMA'S WAR.  

Lee at the London BFI, 1970
Lee relates too in the "Films in Review" interview (with Michael Buckley) how she spent an evening with Katharine Hepburn and Spencer Tracy back in 1955 when they were casting for DESK SET, where the young actress was up for the minor role played by Dina Merrill in the film. Kate was of the opinon she should take roles to get seen, while Spence felt she should wait for the proper break - which she did with Kazan's A FACE IN THE CROWD in 1957 !  In all her interviews Lee comes across as totally natural and unaffected, as indeed she was when I met her in 1970, as per other posts here - she lived in London from 1969-1982 during her second enduring marriage. [Her first husband tv director Bill Colleran (who appears with her in the Malibu home movies) with whom she had two children, died in 2000 aged 77, and her second, assistant director/producer Kip Gowans, who had 2 children from his first marriage, died in 2011 aged 80]. I must dig out those other interviews with her from "Films & Filming" and "Films Illustrated" back in the 70s.  
Below: 1962's DAYS OF WINE AND ROSES, another perennial favourite of ours. What a year for Best Actress nominations: Katharine Hepburn, Bette Davis, Geraldine Page, Lee and the winner Anne Bancroft !

Saturday, 18 January 2014

B-movie heaven (2)

Another selection of pulpy crime thrillers, routine actioners, and some odd Euro-thrillers, not quite Trash but satisfyingly enjoyable, with those French thriller genre tough guys Henri Vidal and Robert Hossein, as well as Sterling Hayden and Steve Cochran and that tough dame Ruth Roman. Enjoy ...
Ruth Roman

THREE SECRETS, 1950. A nifty melodrama, one of Robert Wise’s early films. A five-year-old boy is the sole survivor of a devastating plane crash in the mountains of California. When the newspapers reveal the boy was adopted and that the crash occurred on his birthday, three women begin to ponder if it's the son each gave up for adoption. 
As the three await news of his rescue at a mountain cabin, they recall incidents from five years earlier and why they were forced to give up their son. The women are top-billed Eleanor Parker, rather pallid here; Patricia Neal as incisive as ever, and Ruth Roman who makes the most impression. It is nicely worked out and keeps one involved. The men pale by comparison: Frank Lovejoy, Arthur Franz, Leif Erickson, Ted de Corsia.

FIVE STEPS TO DANGER, 1957. While driving from California to New Mexico, Ann Nicholson picks up John Emmett at a truck stop. She is looking for someone else to share the driving with her so that she can get to her ultimate destination, Santa Fe, quicker. He agrees to accompany her, he being on a month long vacation and heading to a fishing lodge by bus in that general direction anyway. He soon begins to wonder if it was a good decision. They are first stopped by a nurse claiming that Ann is under medical psychological care, and then by the police who are looking for her for questioning on a serious incident back in Los Angeles. Because of these encounters, she tells him her story: that she is indeed recovering from a stress related condition, but that that stress was brought about by her need to get some politically sensitive military information to Santa Fe. 
Wavering between believing and not believing her story, John decides to trust her and go along with her as far as the story plays itself out, all the while the two being chased by various people. 
This plays marvellously with non-stop action ... it may even have inspired the look of PSYCHO ? - I was reminded of the scenes with Janet Leigh in the car and evading the policeman, while watching similar scenes here as we travel the highways and those cheap motels. Ruth Roman and Sterling Hayden are just right, and the plot teases until the end, as directed by Henry S. Kesler. 

TANGANYIKA, 1954. Movies with exotic names were a staple of 50s cinema, as programmers and actioners were set in places like TANGANYIKA, MARACAIBO, MOZAMBIQUE, EAST (or WEST) OF SUDAN - mostly filmed on the backlot, with second unit photography from Africa fitted in, as in Fox's WHITE WITCH DOCTOR (Susan Hayward label). Janet Leigh in her memoirs said they really went to Africa for SAFARI, a 1956 actioner with Victor Mature I remember seeing as a kid. It was hardly worth the journey. Here we have Ruth Roman again, with Van Heflin and Howard Duff, and lots of local colour with all those dancing and fighting natives in this obscure jungle adventure, directed by veteran Andre De Toth, he of the one eye. Roman comes across as a butcher Susan Hayward, Fox's regular action lady.
In 1903 Kenya, tough colonist John Gale is leading a safari to bring in escaped murderer Abel McCracken, who is stirring up the Nukumbi tribe and endangering Gale's holdings. En route, he picks up four survivors of Nukumbi raids: hunter Dan Harder, former teacher Peggy, and two kids. But Dan has hidden motives for coming along; and the Nukumbi are lying in wait.
One I must try to get hold of is JOE MACBETH, a '50s mobster version of Shakespeare with Paul Douglas and Ruth as a rather good Lady Macbeth, which I remember from seeing as a kid ... Ruth was later a staple on tv shows and is always - like Anne Baxter, Jane Russell, Dorothy Malone, Virginia Mayo, Martha Hyer, Vera Miles and other '50s gals - good value. Perhaps she is best remembered now in Hitch's STRANGERS ON A TRAIN, 1951. We like her in the 1966 LOVE HAS MANY FACES which she practically steals from Lana Turner and those Acapulco beachboy gigolos. (Roman label).

MOZAMBIQUE, 1965. This routine, cheesy in a fun way, meller turned out to be the last film of tough guy Steve Cochran, who died that year. He looks fine here and does a lot of stunts in this Harry Alan Towers German production. An out-of-work and penniless American pilot is offered work in Mozambique and promptly becomes an unwitting pawn in a world of drug smuggling, kidnap and murder. Hildegarde Knef is rather good as Ilona Valdez, international woman of mystery (below) and chanteuse in a nightlcub, where she sings German songs to the African natives. Paul Hubschmid and vivacious Vivi Bach are also involved in the derring-do, its rather like a straight version of those Jean Dujardin OSS 117 send-ups. The definition of an amusing timewaster. Cochran was good too with Anne Baxter in CARNIVAL STORY in '54 and was immortalised by Antonioni as the lead in his IL GRIDO in 1957. (review at Antonioni label).

UNE MANCHE ET LA BELLE (WHAT PRICE MURDER?), 1957. A delicious treat from French thriller veteran Henri Verneuil (see French label for reviews of MELODIE EN SOUS SOL, etc). Humble (or is he?) bank clerk Henri Vidal charms wealthy widow Isa Miranda but keeps her at arms length until she practically begs him to marry her .... her secretary is young Mylene Demongeot, whom Vidal is attracted to, but Mylene has her own plans. So who ends up killing who? and will Isa suspect what is going on ? This is brilliantly worked out, with a great twist one does not see coming, from a James Hadley Chase potboiler, and it all looks great in gleaming black and white. Isa has a great role, Mylene is as delicious as ever, and Vidal - this charming man - looks great. 
We like Vidal - from ATTILA in '54, and Clement's LES MAUDITS, as well as those films with Brigitte Bardot and Romy Schneider (Vidal label). What a contrast with Robert Hossein, that other tough French guy. Vidal died aged 40 in 1959 just as Delon and Belmondo were hitting their stride - (so also did Gerard Philipe, also dying in 1959). Hossein on the other hand, is stll here in his 80s and still working unitl recently after a long career. Delon and Belmondo and Trintignant may have been the main French idols, but Maurice Ronet, Jean Sorel and Robert Hossein had long careers too, in mainly action movies - like Franco Nero, Raf Vallone, Renato Salvatori, Vittoria Gassman in Italy. Isa Miranda,below.
TOI ... LE VENIN, (NIGHT IS NOT FOR SLEEP), 1958. This is a deliciously crazy movie, with a great premise. Robert Hossein is out walking late at night when a car pulls up and a blonde calls him over. She wants him to get in, he does and soon they are locked in an embrace, after she removes her top .... but she throws him out and tries to run him over. He manages to get the car number and traces it to a villa where two wealthy sisters live. One is crippled in a wheelchair, and is nursed by her sister. These are played by real-life sisters Marina Vlady (Hossein's wife at the time) and Odile Versois. Our laidback hero is soon caught in the middle between the two sisters, as he romances Odile and promises to stay and run their record store. 
The other sister in the wheelchair is also becoming dangerously obsessed with Robert, but he begins to suspect she is not disabled at all, but cannot prove it. How is all this going to end? Very satisfyingly is all I can say. We liked some other Hossein thrillers (as per my previous B-movie post on French thrillers), like LE MONT CHARGE, and THE WICKED GO TO HELL, which featured Vidal and Vlady. This one is just as good if not better. IMDb describes it as a "Panting psychological thriller", ably directed by Hossein.

DEATH OF A KILLER, (LA MORT  D'UN TUEUR) 1964. Not much fun here but this is the real deal - a tough, spare, tense thriller with Hossein (forever in his pork pie hat) released from prison and teaming up with his old gang, to find out who shopped him to the police just as they were carrying out a robbery. He suspects one gang member, Luciano who was in love with Hossein's attractive sister Marie-France Pisier, whom Hossein himself is also obsessed about. Mother back at home is weary Lila Kedrova, as Hossein and his pals begin to track down Luciano all over the city (it looks like Marseilles). 
Local gangland gets involved and there is a detour to a nightclub with some exotic black dancers (as in LA NOTTE and other chic nightclub scenes of the time) where Hossein gets off with a blonde (also Pisier). Then the shoot-out and all is revealed at the end. Its a film of great images and creates a great mood of fatalism, again also directed by Hossein. 

Soon: Hossein with Sophia Loren in MADAME, that rarity from 1961 ... and another look at Dassin's classic RIFIFI with Hossein and a great cast; and another steaming helping of Trash classics. 

Friday, 17 January 2014

La belle et la bete

Finally a look at Jean Cocteau's spellbinding, sensuous classic which may well be the most perfect cinematic fable ever told. Filmed in 1946 in glittering black and white, it tells of a hapless merchant lost in the forest who seeks refuge at the castle of a hideous monster, the Beast, who threatens to kill him unless he sends one of his three daughters to take his place. The nicest daughter, Beauty, agrees to take his place and when the Beast sees her he falls madly in love with her. She is initially repulsed but comes to see the real nature of the Beast .... as played by Jean Marais (Cocteau's lover) the Beast is all repressed lust and melancholy refinement. 

Beauty is no damsel in distress, as she overcomes her fears and explores the fascinating castle, with those hands holding candelabras, living statues, among other supernatural terrors and delights, well done without today's CGI (like those mirrors to the underworld which people walk through in Cocteau's 1950 ORPHEE ...). The beauty and the beast theme is one of the oldest fairy tales, nicely done here. Is Beast unlocking Beauty's supressed desires? Her two sisters are vain, shallow creatures obsessed about money, as is her brother and his friend who plot to kill the beast and take his treasures, while Beauty is allowed a week return to her family as her father is dying. He though makes a recovery as the two men return to the castle to tackle the Beast ....

It turns out of course the Beast is a prince under a spell (Marais again, who also plays the brother Avenant) ... there is a marvellous score by George Auric and it all looks spellbinding. One wishes though that Cocteau had found a more alluring, charismatic Beauty, as Josette Day does not register much now. It must have certainly influenced Demy's similar fairy tale PEAU D'ANE where Catherine Deneuve is dressed rather like Beauty and Marais of course plays her father (Demy label). So, yes another French classic we like a lot. 
I remember being 17 in 1963 when Cocteau and Edith Piaf died the same weekend, and reading about them in the papers, and I later liked ORPHEE a lot; and visited that Pere Lachaise cemetry in Paris several times in the 70s and 80s, seeing their tombs, as well as Oscar Wilde's, Jim Morrison's and so many others .... its an amazing place. 
Now for some more French B-movie thrillers with the likes of Henri Vidal and Robert Hossein ...