Monday, August 28, 2006

Beauty and the Klaus

Besides SNAKES ON A PLANE and TALLADEGA NIGHTS, the only thing I watched (other than the inside of my eyelids) over vacation was the DVD of BEAUTY AND THE BEAST starring Susan Sarandon and Klaus Kinski in the title roles. Part of Shelly Duvall's 'Faerie Tale Theatre' series on Showtime, the 51 minute retelling of the classic tale aired in 1984, back when Klaus was enjoying a post-FITZCARRALDO wave of positive press.

When a weary traveler (Stephen Elliott) arrives at a mysterious castle he finds himself basking in the hospitality of an unseen host. As he leaves the castle the next day he stops to pluck a white flower for his daughter Beauty (Sarandon). The act so enrages The Beast, an almost unrecognizable Kinski dressed in what appears to be an outfit from a roadshow of CATS, that he informs the traveler he must return to the castle in seven days to pay for his indiscretion, or send one of his daughters in his place.

While his other daughters – Marguerite (Anjelica Huston) and Georgette (Nancy Lenehan) – seem less than concerned about his poor fortune, Beauty offers to return to the Beast's castle in her father's place. He refuses, but she sneaks off in the middle of the night and finds herself at the home of the poor, pitiful, pint-sized Beast. (I'm convinced the elaborate, high collar was added to Kinski's costume to give the diminutive star some added height.)

Once at Castle Kinski, er, Beast, Beauty begins to see the charm lurking beneath the hairy surface of her captor. This despite a surprising scene in which she spots a blood-covered Beast returning to the castle after a late night food run.

Discovering that her father is on his death bed – thanks no doubt to the craptastic care provided by her inept sisters – Beauty convinces the Beast to let her visit him, promising that she'll return in seven days. When she does so against her father's gut instinct she discovers the Beast dying in the castle gardens. It's only when she professes her love for him that the Beast lives, but as a dandified Kinski!

Roger Vadim directs the tale and gives it an interesting look. Scenes in the "real" world of the traveler and his daughters are shot on film while the smoky, spooky land of The Beast is captured on video, giving the two "worlds" jarringly different looks. Other interesting touches include candle-holding arms that jut from the walls of The Beast's castle and repeated sequences in which The Beast's hands appear to be smoking. Is The Beast attempting to burn off his furry outside to release the beautiful (?), but cursed, prince within?

It's no shock that Kinski gives it his all, despite the cumbersome and itchy-looking makeup job he's hidden beneath. Anybody could've voiced the role, but it's nice to hear Klaus inject lines like "If you do not return I'll die of grief and lonliness!" with world weary pain. Poor Sarandon, though, seems shocked when The Beast dies and Kinski emerges in his place. Frankly, she looks like she'd prefer life with the CATS castoff than the author of 'All I Need is Love.

1 comment:

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