The Beast Must Die
A big game hunter gathers a group of people to his secluded British mansion believing one of them is a werewolf and has the sole intent to hunt the creature when it transforms.
Spoiler Level: None
Sometimes, just for fun, we will pick a horror film to watch that we have never seen in a random fashion. We sometimes will narrow the list down to a specific decade, production company, actor, or even subject matter, but often it is just a list of movies through out the years that we might not have ever seen. This is a type of Russian Roulette when it comes to the quality of the film and can be fun, especially if we pick something from decades ago. Last night’s film was 1974s The Beast Must Die produced by Amicus Productions and based on a short story called “There Shall Be No Darkness” by James Blish. Amicus Productions is often confused with the more popular Hammer Film Productions as they used a similar style and actors, namely Peter Cushing and Christopher Lee, although Hammer normally set their films in the gothic period, Amicus usually was set in present day.
The Beast Must Die has an interesting premise. Millionaire and avid big game hunter Tom Newcliffe (Calvin Lockhart) invites a group of people to his rural English mansion and explains that they are all there because he has reason to believe one of them is a werewolf. The guests include disgraced diplomat Arthur Bennington (Charles Gray), a concert pianist and his wife Jan and Davina Gilmore (Michael Gambon and Ciaran Maddan), Paule Foote (Tom Chadbon) who is an artist recently released from prison, and Professor Lundgren (Peter Cushing) an archaeologist and lycanthropy expert. The mansion has been outfitted with cameras and sensors linked back to a central control room. Newcliffe’s goal is to force the werewolf to change and then to hunt and kill the creature. Problem is, he doesn’t know which one of them is a werewolf, but he is sure one of them is. Lundgren scientifically explains that lycanthropy is a disease of the lymph glans that when certain conditions are present, releases a chemical into the blood that facilitates the change and a particular lust for human blood. The conditions are, a full moon and the presence of wolfsbane pollen in the air. Newcliffe makes sure both are present. Of course, things don’t go exactly as Tom plans and several people are killed before we finally find out who the werewolf really is.
Amicus Productions liked to use gimmicks with their films and in this case, the film was dubbed a murder mystery where the audience is asked to figure out who the werewolf is. Before the final big reveal, the film stops and a 30 second timer is placed on the screen to give the audience time to submit their guess. This could have been a fun element to the film, if the film was a more straight forward “whodunit” with actual clues that could lead us to the actual killer, but unfortunately it was an after thought and was not originally written into the script, so there weren’t a lot of deductions that could have been made with the information given to the audience. Director Paul Annett, hated the addition of the timer, but it was appreciated by some critics, like Leonard Maltin, liked it. I did enjoy the film, but must admit that the premise was much more interesting than the execution. In true 70s fashion, the story moves a lot slower than today’s films. The acting is adequate, although we don’t get as much character exploration as we could have, which could have helped the audience connect with the film a bit more. Some of the music seems oddly placed and out of sync with what is happening on the screen, but this is kind of normal for a British production of the 1970s. There were very little special effects used and we never really see a transformation. This I am sure was due to budgetary constraints.
This is one of the few films where I think a remake could be really amazing. The premise is intriguing and with a larger budget and updated script, could be a really fun mystery / horror hybrid. I also thought it could make an interesting stage play. It has a very classic “Agatha Christie” feel to it.
I love watching old horror movies from the 60s and 70s. They have a very particular style, and although often move at a snails pace, there is something fun about them.
The Beast Must Die: A Werewolf Amongst Us!
- Writing - 8/108/10
- Storyline - 9/109/10
- Acting - 8/108/10
- Music - 6/106/10
- Production - 7/107/10
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