The Beast Must Die (1974) reviews and overview

 
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[Total: 43   Average: 2.6/5]

‘When the moon is full’

The Beast Must Die is a 1974 British mystery horror feature film about several guests at a country mansion, one of whom will be revealed to be a werewolf. It was also released in the USA as Black Werewolf

Directed by Paul Annett from a screenplay written by Michael Winder, based on a short story by James Blish, ‘There Shall Be No Darkness’, the Amicus Productions movie was produced by Max J. Rosenberg and Milton Subotsky.

The film stars Calvin Lockhart (Twin Peaks: Fire Walk with Me; Predator 2), Peter Cushing, Marlene Clark (Ganja & Hess; Beware! The Blob; Night of the Cobra Woman), Charles Gray (The Legacy; The Rocky Horror Picture Show; The Devil Rides Out), Anton Diffring (The Iguana with the Tongue of Fire; Circus of Horrors), Ciaran Madden, Tom Chadbon and Michael Gambon (The Cook, the Thief, His Wife & Her Lover; Nothing But the Night).

The funky soundtrack score was composed by Douglas Gamley (Madhouse; From Beyond the Grave; And Now the Screaming Starts!; The Vault of Horror; Asylum; Tales from the Crypt; et al).

New Blu-ray release:

Powerhouse Films has issued a Limited Edition Blu-ray in the UK. Order via Amazon.co.uk

Special features:

4K restoration
Original mono audio
Audio commentary with director Paul Annett with writer Jonathan Sothcott (2003)
Interview with Max J Rosenberg (2000): an archival audio recording of the famed producer in conversation with Sothcott
The BEHP Interview with Jack Hildyard (1988): an archival audio recording, made as part of the British Entertainment History Project, featuring the Oscar-winning cinematography in conversation with Alan Lawson
The BEHP Interview with Peter Tanner – Part Two, 1939-1987 (1987): an archival audio recording, made as part of the British Entertainment History Project, featuring the acclaimed editor in conversation with Roy Fowler and Taffy Haines
Introduction by Stephen Laws (2020): an appreciation by the acclaimed horror author
Directing the Beast (2003): an archival interview with Paul Annett
Super 8 version: cut-down home cinema presentation
Image gallery: publicity and promotional material
Original theatrical trailer
Kim Newman and David Flint trailer commentary (2017): a short critical appreciation
New and improved English subtitles for the deaf and hard-of-hearing
Limited edition exclusive 40-page booklet with a new essay by Neil Young, an archival article on Amicus Productions, a look at the James Blish short story which inspired the film’s screenplay, an extract from the pressbook profiling actor Calvin Lockhart, an overview of contemporary critical responses, and film credits
UK premiere on Blu-ray
Limited edition of 3,000 copies

Reviews [click links to read more]:

“It is sometimes a bit too reliant on talk over action, but the amusing, often dishy dialogue helps […] Director Paul Annett’s work isn’t quite stylish enough to capitalize on the film’s offbeat mix of genres, but he unfurls the storyline at a steady clip and makes great use of a stellar cast.” All Movie

” …Amicus’s talents do not lie in the area of single-plot features, even though John Stoll’s art direction and the camerawork combine to offer decidedly watchable images.” The Aurum Film Encyclopedia: Horror

“As a horror movie, The Beast Must Die is pretty tame and melodramatic, more in line with the early Hammer classics than with modern monster films or even Blaxploitation fare. (It doesn’t help that the “werewolf” is played by a big fluffy dog.) Still, it’s a quick, enjoyable “page-turner” of a flick.” Black Horror Movies

“Yes, The Beast Must Die is campy, clichéd claptrap, but at its heart is a roistering good yarn with a few interesting (although possibly mishandled) ideas – a rich, successful black man? In a film from 1974? In which no-one pointedly comments on his skin colour? The thing should have won something for that, at least.” British Horror Films

“Even though the film features an impressive helicopter explosion (that seems borrowed from the previous year’s Shaft’s Big Score!), The Beast Must Die plays like an extended – and not very good – episode of the 1960s TV series Dark Shadows.” Blaxploitation Cinema

” …Beast Must Die is always literate, occasionally humorous, and notable for making the suave hunter-protagonist a black guy […] With good camerawork and many chase sequences, it’s more of an action film than a horror one.” David Elroy Goldweber, Claws & Saucers

Buy: Amazon.co.uk | Amazon.com | Amazon.ca

“This modern touch is okay but it still boils down to the old Wolf Man clichés with a dog dressed to look like a werewolf.” John Stanley, Creature Features

“This is extremely silly and although it never comes close to providing any scares it does build up the tension and mystery quite well and makes for fun viewing with a few friends as you compete to see who guesses right at the end.” Eat Horror

“A brisk, mod-ish, silly British horror film that looks a lot better now than then, with a mix of old-fashioned monster business, fab 70s threads and Avengers-style weirdness.” Empire

” …the pacing is a bit turgid at times, and for those of you hoping to pick out clues as to who the werewolf is, all I can say is that the movie doesn’t really give you any good clues and when the “werewolf break” comes, you’ll just have to make a wild guess. There are some decent twists at the end, and the cast […] give it their best shot, but for the most part, this is fairly ordinary.” Fantastic Movie Musings and Ramblings

Buy The Amicus Collection: Amazon.com

The Beast Must Die is an unusual and entertaining creature feature, and that’s a beast worth keeping alive for new movie fans to discover. The “werewolf break” remains a fun surprise even on re-watch as it literally interrupts the action to talk to you, the viewer, and hopefully, a few of you will answer.” Film School Rejects

“With its twists and suspense, The Beast Must Die does an excellent job at whittling down the suspects at an appropriate pace but remains ambiguous until the very end. Although from early on I made a blind (but correct) guess at who the werewolf was, it still comes as a surprise. See this film if you want to see something creative, innovative and incredibly enjoyable.” Flickering Myth

“A dull talky attempt to combine a werewolf film with The Most Dangerous Game […] A rather sorry excuse for a horror film – even Peter Cushing’s distinguished presence doesn’t help.” The Horror Film, Cinebooks

“Tom’s character is a walking contradiction, made even more perplexing by Lockhart’s genuinely terrible performance. But, don’t ask me why it all adds to the film’s charm. Gambon and Diffring are the only actors who give welcomely reserved performances, evening the balance somewhat. But, of course, it’s Cushing’s film – even though he doesn’t get to do much until the final third.” Sex Gore Mutants

“Whilst not truly out and out scary it does have a fine cast, great score and enough red herrings to keep you guessing right up until the final reel. Most of all it is a film attempting to put a new spin on to werewolf movie conventions, and just for that alone it deserves to be commended.” The Spinning Image

“It has a sub-Lalo Schifrin jazz-funk score that really does not suit a Brit horror flick and some of the outfits poor old Peter Cushing has to endure are truly dreadful. Sadly, despite the budget spent on the hi-tech set dressing and Newcliffe’s helicopter, there wasn’t enough cash left over to create a truly memorable werewolf.” The Spooky Isles

“Cushing is on politely sinister form, pontificating on all things lupine from silver candlesticks to wolfsbane. Leading man Lockhart relishes his cigar-chomping huntsman-hero, striding around his country estate in badass body leathers, firing off his machine gun like a Blaxploitation Terminator in Surrey, accompanied by the parping brass and wah-wah guitars of Douglas Gamley’s gloriously ‘70s score.” Starburst

“This Amicus production could have been a lot better, but Lockhart was the glue that held it together and made it much more enjoyable than it would have been otherwise. It is a bit of a curiosity in the way it goes about things though, but it ultimately works and is worth a watch if any of the elements appeal to you.” The Telltale Mind

“Great setting and game performances from all involved help make this an enjoyable late-night escape. Cushing, Gray always a pleasure to watch.” The Terror Trap

Double-billed with Brian De Palma’s Sisters (1972)

“As for the werewolf itself, it is indeed a joke: far more so than looking like either a werewolf or even a wolf, the creature is a direct descendent of the killer shrews in the classic so-bad-its-good movie The Killer Shrews (1959). It looks just like what it is: a friendly dog wearing a body wig. How could anyone who took part in the production actually think that would work? Not good. Not scary.” A Wasted Life

Choice dialogue:

Paul Foote (Tom Chadbon): “Well, if that was dinner, I can’t wait for the cabaret.”

Cast and characters:

Calvin Lockhart … Tom Newcliffe
Peter Cushing … Doctor Christopher Lundgren
Marlene Clark … Caroline Newcliffe
Charles Gray … Bennington
Anton Diffring … Pavel
Ciaran Madden … Davina
Tom Chadbon … Paul Foote
Michael Gambon … Jan
Sam Mansary … Butler (as Sam Mansaray)
Andrew Lodge … Pilot
Carl Bohen … First Hunter (as Carl Bohun)
Eric Carte … Second Hunter
Valentine Dyall … Werewolf Break narrator (voice) (uncredited)
Annie Ross … Caroline Newcliffe (voice) (uncredited)

Filming locations:

Shepperton Studios, Studios Road, Shepperton, Middlesex, England

Technical details:

93 minutes
Technicolor
Aspect ratio: 1.85: 1
Audio: Mono

Censorship and release:

Passed uncut with an ‘X’ certificate by censorship body the BBFC (submitted by British Lion Film Corp Ltd, awarded 31/01/1974). All subsequent VHS, DVD and Blu-ray releases have been rated ’15’.

In the USA, The Beast Must Die was released in 1974 by Cinerama Releasing Corporation with a ‘PG’ certificate.

Related:

More werewolf movies

Hunting Humans: The Influence of The Most Dangerous Game – article

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