long wanted to revisit the 1976 Hallmark Hall of Fame TV production of BEAUTY AND THE BEAST. The film starred George C. Scott as the Beast and Scott's lovely wife, Trish Van Devere, as Belle.
To my knowledge, the movie was rebroadcast in the United States once, within a year or two of the original broadcast, and has not been shown since. Earlier this week I discovered it was available on YouTube and was having a wonderful time watching it again, only to find out that the last 15 minutes of the film hadn't been posted to the Internet along with the rest of the movie.
Happily it was eBay to the rescue! I found a dealer who had a copy of the film available and was able to finish watching it this afternoon. I wish I'd thought of checking there sooner. The print wasn't great but was definitely watchable, about on a par with what I'd been watching on YouTube.
This is a truly enchanting production which doesn't rely on special effects to tell its story; rather, it's basically a simple two-character play shot on location in England. Although there is a small supporting cast, including Bernard Lee and Virginia McKenna as Belle's father and sister, the film is carried almost entirely on the strength of the two lead performances and the actors' chemistry with one another.
Scott is superb as the Beast. Given that his face is almost entirely covered by an excellent makeup job, his emotions are conveyed simply with his voice and his eyes, and those tools are more than enough. The viewer comes to love the Beast just as Belle does, so much so that it's a bit of a disappointing surprise for a minute when the Beast is transformed into the prince in the final scene.
Van Devere portrays Belle as a spirited young woman who isn't afraid to stand up to the Beast on multiple occasions; her Belle is also kindhearted, intellectually curious (she and the Beast debate Aristotle), and conveys an appealing sense of enjoyment of both the magical (her new gowns) and the simple (a dance or a game of hide and seek). One of my favorite scenes is when Belle discovers that she can command the food to appear and disappear at the magnificent feast at the Beast's castle.
BEAUTY AND THE BEAST was directed by Fielder Cook, who also made the classic THE HOMECOMING: A CHRISTMAS STORY (1971).
The comments at IMDb indicate that the long-ago broadcast of BEAUTY AND THE BEAST made as strong an impression on others as it did on me.
Typical comments posted at IMDb: "I was so impressed with this production of Beauty and the Beast that I have thought of it many times over the years. How can it be that this little film left such an impression?"..."When I was young, this movie gave me a great feelings that I have had with me my whole life"..."I remembered the film as extraordinarily well-acted and beautiful throughout -- so much so, that I developed a real deep love for the story"..."You will remember this film for a long time"..."One of the most splendidly beautiful productions of the story I have ever seen"..."I saw this television presentation over a quarter of a century ago and for my money, it was one of the most lovely things television ever gave me"..."This work is too good to just be stashed away and never seen again."
It's a mystery why this fine Hallmark Hall of Fame production has not been made available on DVD. I very much hope that one day they'll respond by releasing this film on DVD.
As a postscript, it's nice timing that the weekend before Thanksgiving I'll have the opportunity to see the Disney musical version on stage for the first time, at the Orange County Performing Arts Center. November seems to be the month of BEAUTY AND THE BEAST!