The Beast in the Cellar is a 1970 British horror film written and directed by James Kelley. The film was produced by Leander Films and Tigon British Film Productions.
Soldiers in a rural military base are being brutally murdered. They suspect it is a wild cat. Two local ladies: Joyce Balentine (Flora Robson) and Ellie (Beryl Reid) suspect it may be their brother, Steven (Dafydd Havard); a man who has been locked in a basement for thirty years.
Also known, deliciously, as Are You Dying, Young Man? The Beast in the Cellar is considered the rather poor cousin to Tigon’s other horror output, such as Witchfinder General and The Blood on Satan’s Claw, which does it a great disservice.
Rather like Whatever Happened to Baby Jane? it utilises two actresses of a certain age (Robson and Reid) to disarm the viewer into expecting a rather tamer affair than we actually get – Robson in particular had a reputation for playing rather pious figures, as in Black Narcissus, though Reid had already garnered a reputation for challenging roles, in particular 1968’s The Killing of Sister George.
The prolonged build up to the big reveal is played dead-pan and is distinctly unnerving, the actual unveiling coming as a slight disappointment. This is at odds with audience response at the time which found it over-talky and lacking in the blood and action the poster and title suggested. In fact, both Reid and Robson were appalled at the blood and nudity at the expense of some of their dialogue which were added into the film in post-production, a typical Tony Tenser trick.
Though appearing rather humdrum in comparison to the film it shared a double-bill with upon release, The Blood on Satan’s Claw, Beast is an excellent slice of British eccentricity and is a fascinating look at a bygone age of horror. Director, Kelley, went on to direct only one further film, the considerably more eye-popping Night Hair Child.
Review by Daz Lawrence, Horrorpedia
Cast and characters:
- Beryl Reid as Ellie Ballantyne
- Flora Robson as Joyce Ballantyne
- John Hamill as Corporal Alan Marlow
- Tessa Wyatt as Joanna Sutherland
- T. P. McKenna as Superintendent Paddick
- John Kelland as Sergeant Young
- David Dodimead as Dr. Spencer
- Vernon Dobtcheff as Sir Bernard Newsmith
Pinewood Studios, Buckinghamshire, England, UK