La Bete Humaine is French production at its best. Jean Renoir, in adapting and filming Emile Zola’s penetrating study of a man obsessed by an irrepressible desire to kill, inherited from a long line of alcoholics, has captured that repression in all of its nuances.
Jean Gabin, as the humble locomotive engineer, knows and is haunted by his desire to strangle whoever is within reach when the urge strikes his numbed brain. Drink heightens that desire.
Ledoux is the station chief at Le Havre, Gabin’s terminus, and Simone Simon is Ledoux’s unfaithful wife. Ledoux, much older, is foolishly in love with his wife and murders her lover before her eyes. Gabin and Ledoux’s wife become lovers, she aware that he knows who committed the murder. She tells Gabin he must kill her husband or he will kill them both.
Throughout Gabin never misses. Simon is very effective. Ledoux takes the station master in good stride. Photography is good.