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A view on Blu-ray by Gary W. Tooze

Beauty of the Devil [Blu-ray]


(René Clair, 1950)



Review by Gary Tooze



Theatrical: Franco London Films

Video: Cohen Media Group



Region: 'A' (as verified by the Oppo Blu-ray player)

Runtime: 1:36:39.710

Disc Size: 47,698,474,587 bytes

Feature Size: 29,117,654,400 bytes

Video Bitrate: 36.00 Mbps

Chapters: 11

Case: Transparent Blu-ray case

Release date: October 29th, 2013



Aspect ratio: 1.33:1

Resolution: 1080p / 23.976 fps

Video codec: MPEG-4 AVC Video



LPCM Audio French 2304 kbps 2.0 / 48 kHz / 2304 kbps / 24-bit



English (non-removable)



• Through the Looking Glass with Rene Clair: Master of the Fantastic - a film by Pierre-henri Gilbert  (49:58)

• Original French Trailer (2:38)

• Original Re-release Trailer (1:30)
• 8-page liner notes





Description: Michel Simon and Gérard Philipe star in this imaginative retelling of the Faust legend. Approaching the end of his life, a prominent professor of alchemy (Simon) makes a bargain with the Devil (Philipe) that will gain him youth, fame and riches in exchange for his soul. Master filmmaker René Clair creates an allegorical fantasy that is at times both whimsical and tragicomic.



The Film:

Rene Clair, a film artist whose contributions to the screen have been few and far between in the last half-dozen years, apparently has chosen as ageless a subject as any in "Beauty and the Devil," which arrived at the Little Carnegie yesterday. For this import, spoken in French with a complement of literal English subtitles, is a sweeping, lavishly mounted and often fascinating and imaginative restatement of the Faust legend that closely adheres to the tragi-comedy label the producers have bestowed upon it.

M. Clair, of course, is not opening any vitally new story vistas. He is—as were the literary masters before him—revealing the titanic struggle between good and evil, between man and the devil. But in the fight for the possession of Faust's soul, M. Clair has added a few present-day insinuations, via atomic power, etc., about the possibility of mankind's self-destruction, which gives the drama a momentary pertinence and places it apart from standard versions of this ancient parable.

Excerpt from the NY Times located HERE

The Faust story has the potential to be ponderous, what with its musings on the nature of good and evil and the existence of the soul. However, if any director has the ability to avoid that problem, it would be Rene Clair, who even when he is serious, is never heavy. This is the story of Faust as a comic tragedy, with half of the movie dedicated to Mephistopheles using every trick in the book to get Faust to sign the contract, and then having to use every means at his disposal to try to keep Faust from repenting. His first trick is a fine example of the machinations to come; he turns Faust into a young man free of charge, but when Faust is forced to return to his home to get some money, he is mistaken for a thief by his servant, and given that the old Faust is nowhere to be found, is arrested for the murder and robbery of his older self. Of course, Faust can call on Mephistopheles to help him out of this predicament, but will he? To give away any more of this story would ruin the effect, but the ensuing battle of wills and minds is witty, clever and engaging, and the performances of Michel Simon and Gerard Philipe (who play Faust and Mephistopheles, though not necessarily in that order) are great.

Excerpt from Dave Sindelar at Fantastic Movie Musings located HERE

Image :    NOTE: The below Blu-ray captures were taken directly from the Blu-ray disc.

The Beauty of the Devil on Blu-ray from Cohen Media looks quite heavy with rich black levels indicating the source probably had strong density. It doesn't quite get to moiring but has brushes with it. There is a pleasing sheen of fine grain. This is dual-layered with a max'ed out bitrate. There are almost no speckles and it appears as though some restoration may have gone on at the film-level. Softness appears inherent in the production - nothing to do with the fine transfer but there are some close-ups with pleasing detail.  There are many night sequences but there is no intrusive noise. This Blu-ray video seems an authentic replication of the original - as are most of Cohen's efforts to date!

















Audio :

The linear PCM 2.0 channel at 2304 kbps with French dialogue that is clean and clear without flaws. Other than that it is relatively unremarkable with some atmospheric original music by Roman Vlad (who passed away last month at 93!). It has lighter and heavier sequences supporting the films moods. There are English subtitles (non-removable) for the French language and my Oppo has identified it as being a region 'A'.


Extras :

Cohen include an interesting supplement - a 50-minute piece by Pierre-henri Gilbert on the director entitled Through the Looking Glass with Rene Clair: Master of the Fantastic. It is in French with English subtitles and has plenty of input from colleagues, historians and critics discussing Rene Clair. There is also an original French trailer and original re-release trailer - plus the package contains a 8-page liner notes leaflet with photos.



Beauty of the Devil - if approached in the right frame of mind - is a lot of fun.  You are required to give over to the fantasy elements - and it is not hard with the art direction and brisk pace. It's whimsical, carefree, sensibilities are derived from a less polished production but some of the director's style is evident. I enjoyed it. The Cohen Blu-ray gives a solid presentation and the extra featurette adds more appreciation. Recommended!

Gary Tooze

October 23rd, 2013


About the Reviewer: Hello, fellow Beavers! I have been interested in film since I viewed a Chaplin festival on PBS when I was around 9 years old. I credit DVD with expanding my horizons to fill an almost ravenous desire to seek out new film experiences. I currently own approximately 9500 DVDs and have reviewed over 5000 myself. I appreciate my discussion Listserv for furthering my film education and inspiring me to continue running DVDBeaver. Plus a healthy thanks to those who donate and use our Amazon links.

Although I never wanted to become one of those guys who focused 'too much' on image and sound quality - I find HD is swiftly pushing me in that direction.

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Gary W. Tooze






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