Made at the height of poetic realism in the French cinema, LA BĘTE HUMAINE is an adaptation of Emile Zola's classic work, starring Jean Gabin as railroad engineer Jacques Lantier. He lusts after Severine (Simone Simon), the lovely wife of stationmaster Robaud (Fernand Ledoux), but has kept his desire in check. While riding on Lantier's train, Robaud threatens to expose Severine's wealthy and powerful godfather, Grandmorin (Jacques Berlioz), for having violated his goddaughter when she was 16. Grandmorin threatens to ruin Robaud so the stationmaster kills the older man. Although Lantier is a witness, he fails to speak up when the wrong man, Cabuche (Jean Renoir), is indicted because of his feeling for Severine. Eager to ensure the engineer's silence, Robaud insists that Severine become his lover. Lantier does not require extensive persuasion. At length, Grandmorin is exposed and the ingenuous Cabuche is freed. But over time Severine has come to love Lantier. At this point she asks him to kill her husband so they can be together. But Lantier, overwhelmed by revulsion toward all that has come before, refuses to comply with her wishes. Gabin is utterly convincing as the tormented lover in this magnificently atmospheric tale of crime and passion.
LA BĘTE HUMAINE, starring Jean Gabin as railroad engineer Jacques Lantier, is an adaptation of the Emile Zola classic whose characters are driven by rage and lust. Lantier is obssessed with Severine, the beautiful wife of stationmaster Robaud. When Robaud's hatred for Grandmorin, the wealthy and powerful man who had deflowered his wife as a young girl, leads to murder, Lantier is a witness. Should he tell what he knows, or will Severine make him an offer he can't refuse'