Beauty and The Beast Sn 1

Monday, 30 May 2011 10:31

First aired on TV between 1987 and 1988, the first season of Beauty and the Beast finally makes its way to UK DVD. This tragedy-tinged, romantic drama series stars “Terminator” and Chuck hard-case Linda Hamilton and “Hellboy” himself, Ron Perlman. Hamilton is Catherine Chandler, a well-to-do New York lawyer who is savagely assaulted by thugs, and rescued in the nick of time by a mysterious cloaked figure. Catherine’s saviour is Vincent, a bizarre, towering being who is half cat, half man.

He lives in a secret sanctuary deep under the city along with his mentoring father, Jacob (Roy Dotrice – Space: 1999, Hercules: The Legendary Journeys) and numerous other folk, all of whom favour the security and tranquillity of their strange subterranean abode rather than the dangerous ‘real world’ above. Scarred and nearly blinded by the attack, Catherine has a chance to become emotionally attached to Vincent before the bandages come off and she finally sees him for the first time.

Beauty and The Beast - Season One out on DVD nowThough she initially recoils in horror, Catherine quickly realises that beneath that frightening exterior lies the same tender and compassionate man who has cared for her. The pair become bound together in friendship, but the tragic crux of the series is of course that he can never be above ground for long for fear of being lynched or locked up as a scientific curiosity.

They must spend the majority of the time apart, but fortuitously their bond is slightly psychic on Vincent’s side, allowing him to sense when Catherine experiences extreme emotions (typically fear). He can visit her at night by clambering up to the balcony of her apartment, or she can go calling on him by entering one of the many underground tunnels and tapping out a message on the pipes.

Realising after the assault that she is not alone in being preyed upon by the many bad people in the city, Catherine leaves her rich father’s law firm to become a District Attorney’s assistant. In her new position she can fight for the common man, especially the old, sick and impoverished. Each week she comes across new victims in need of her assistance, such as people being coerced out of their flats by greedy property developers, or witnesses to murder who are afraid to come forward and testify.

Occasionally episodes focus on other under-dwellers and their separate society. Although they seek to remain hidden, people from above often endanger their fragile community. Vincent and Jacob are their guardians, and they use any means necessary to protect their friends.

Catherine courageously puts her personal safety at risk for the sake of her charges. To give herself a fighting chance she undertakes self-defence classes with Issac (Delroy Lindo – The Chicago Code, “Sahara”), and often does a great job of fending off the bad guys. That said, Vincent’s darker side is still called upon on a regular basis, and – sensing she is in mortal peril – he rushes to her aid using the network of tunnels and by riding on the roof of tube trains to get to her as quickly as possible, whilst remaining unseen.

Vincent flips from the gentle giant to a fierce, unstoppable force in the blink of an eye. His feline teeth and claws are bared as he roars into battle, slashing and bowling over the baddies. I find it slightly alarming that this box set has been awarded a PG-certificate because in contrast to series like The Incredible Hulk, characters are frequently killed, both victims and criminals. The violence is rarely graphic but it is common-place. On the flip side, it helps the stories ring truer than other series with a similar premise. Catherine and Vincent have to make some hard decisions during their on-going fight for justice, and both they and those in their care are going to get hurt.

I would definitely recommend this box set to those who like their drama to have a slight supernatural edge to it. It is like a cross between the aforementioned Hulk, Dark Angel (especially with regard to season 2’s Joshua character) and “The Elephant Man”. The romantic element rarely gets laid on too thickly, so it remains charming rather than sickly, and the two stars fill their characters with life and have great chemistry.

Whilst many of the plots have been done a million times before, the unusual set-up and intelligent writing helps to keep them entertaining. Harking from the 80s, the series suffers slightly from some alarming fashion disasters like massive shoulder-pads and Vincent’s risible Jon Bon Jovi hairstyle, but it has a wonderful timeless quality to it and the central ‘David versus Goliath’ premise is as relevant today as it was 25 years ago.

Special features in this Season 1 box set include an image gallery, episode synopses and “The Story of Beauty and the Beast” documentary featuring the stars. These bonuses were not available at the time of the review.

“Beauty and the Beast – The First Season” (1987) is out now, courtesy of Fabulous Films. The entire 22-episode season has a running time of 1,072 minutes approx, carries a ‘PG’ certificate and retails for £49.99, or less from www.culttvstore.com

Last modified on Thursday, 10 May 2012 16:37

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