"Ah cain't git no...sat-is-fack-shun." For some reason, a dubbed Southern accent has never seemed so appropriate for Kinski as it does in The Beast.
From the start of the show Johnny's on the trail of tail, and he has no time for courtship, dating or other civilized minutiae. Before the credits roll he pounces on a female, only to be driven off before he can consummate his crazed (crazing?) desire. This establishes the pattern for the rest of the film. Repeatedly, Johnny will have women in his power, only to be chased off, shot at, or otherwise repelled. Sometimes the women themselves fight back, exploiting an unbecoming naivete in our horndog antihero. In one scene, he pressures his prisoner for sex. She consents, but requires him to step outside so she can undress. He dutifully complies, and when he enters again, his victim breaks some furniture over his head.
Resistance only prompts his wrath, however, and when women fight back and flee, he ends up killing rather than raping them when he catches up. Asked to account for himself after one such murder, he affects righteous indignation. "She was killed because she wouldn't let me make love," he protests.
"You're beginning to bore me, old man," Johnny explains as he blasts a rare male victim who dared question his murder of the girl in the coach.
In the absence of a master gunfighter or a revenge plot, and due to the odd imbalance of the identity-theft plot and Crazy Johnny's exploits, La Belva has a disorganized quality verging on randomness. It's almost appropriate, given the picaresque aspect of Johnny's adventures, but it more likely reflects the brute fact that Costa had a star and story that didn't quite fit together. For that reason I feel that I can only recommend this film to Kinski fans, but to them I definitely recommend it. For some reason it seems like a role he was destined to play, and it's certainly a part he seems to empathize with. Perhaps it struck closer to home than the great man might have cared to admit, but if so it didn't stop him from doing very watchable work.
It might be more watchable in some form other than the copy in VideoAsia's Spaghetti Western Bible Vol. 3 box set. It's the one film in that ten-film collection not to be letterboxed, if I remember right, and my poor screencaps testify to the quality of the transfer. Despite being identified as The Beast on the box, the film itself has latter-day opening credits that identify it as Rough Justice, a title of surpassing vagueness but one that at least wouldn't have caused people to mistake La Belva for a monster movie. See it this way if you must, but hold out for better if you can.
Take Back the West!