Thursday, 9 January 2014

The Beast Must Die (1974)

The film that anyone who has seen it remembers for one reason - The Werewolf Break - The Beast Must Die is a strange mix of whodunnit, lycanthropy and some funky blaxploitation from Amicus. Unfortunately, it doesn't get any of the elements right, leaving viewers with an amusing curio instead of a genuinely interesting, unique movie.

Calvin Lockhart plays a rich asshole who gathers a number of people to his home, with the express intention of revealing one of them as a werewolf. That's not WHY he's an asshole. No. That's just something that he's able to do because he has the money to set up a lot of surveillance equipment around his home, and he gets to invite some prime suspects. He's an asshole because of the way he then treats those guests (only ONE of whom should/could be a werewolf, bear in mind). Anyway, the guests (Peter Cushing, Charles Gray, Michael Gambon, Ciaran Madden, Tom Chadbon, and Marlene Clarke, as the wife of Lockhart's character) all get to know one another while waiting to see who gets hairy and howly because of a full moon.

Directed by Paul Annett, this is based on a story by James Blish, and it puts itself forward more as an interesting conceit than anything that can make for a fully satisfying movie. It all builds to that aforementioned werewolf break, a device that audiences are told about at the very beginning of the movie, and it's the mystery element that succeeds more than the werewolf side of things.

The wildly varied acting of the main cast doesn't really help, with the likes of Cushing and Gray acquitting themselves with aplomb alongside lesser performances from Chadbon, Gambon (he's not bad, but it's far from his best performance) and, crucially, Lockhart hamming it up in the lead role. Marlene Clark and Ciaran Madden don't really get a lot to do, although the former is suitably exasperated by her husband throughout.

Werewolf fans beware, there's also a big mark against the movie due to the fact that any shots of the titular beast are clearly just shots of a dog, and not even a big, scary dog. Nope, budgetary restraints meant that the closest thing to a werewolf would have to be . . . . . . . . . well, just see it for yourself. And have a chuckle.

The Beast Must Die remains worth a watch, especially for fans of Amicus or any of the cast members involved, but it's not one of the best werewolf movies ever made. Although it remains one of the most unique.



  1. jimmie t. murakami10 January 2014 at 03:13

    For all its laughable inadequacies and shortcomings "The Beast Must Die" is still infinitely better and more entertaining than any of the pathetic unwatchable crap thats produced by the British film industry these days ! ! !, just to put things into the proper perspective again.

    1. Better and more entertaining than Danny Dyer movies? Yes. Better and more entertaining than stuff from Shane Meadows, Edgar Wright, Neil Marshall, Danny Boyle, etc? I'd have to disagree, Jimmie.

  2. jimmie t. murakami10 January 2014 at 23:10

    Kevin, i still think the names you mentioned are nothing when compared to people like Terence Fisher, John Gilling, and Freddie Francis, those old British made horror movies from the 50`s, 60`s, and 70`s have an incredible re-watchability factor that todays British made horror movies simply dont have, and dont make the mistake of thinking that i`m just being unneccessarily sentimental or nostalgic, i really know what i`m talking about here.

    1. Well, we will have to agree to disagree. I don't think there are many films finer than The Nanny and a number of the Ealing classics, for example, but I also see a great selection year in and year out from the British film industry, despite the attempts over the years to dismantle it and drive it into the ground. I'll always love The Creeping Flesh, but I'll have equal space in my movie-loving heart for The Lair Of The White Worm, and even here in Scotland there have been enough hits throughout the years to keep a smile on my face (from The Prime Of Miss Jean Brodie to Gregory's Girl to Restless Natives to Trainspotting to Outcast).

  3. jimmie t. murakami11 January 2014 at 04:09

    It was great when you mentioned "The Creeping Flesh" because i genuinely believe it to be THE greatest film ever produced by the British film industry, i`ve seen it literally hundreds of times and i never tire of it, however some of the other films you mentioned leave a lot to be desired, they`re like The Childrens Film Foundation on a bad day or a BBC Play For Today circa 1971.