Sunday, 7 April 2013

Review: The Beast Must Die (1974)

The Beast Must Die was produced in 1974 by Amicus – rather wonderfully described on the DVD cover as “the studio that dripped blood.” It is a classic in the “eccentric millionaire invites guests to secluded mansion, horrible deaths ensue” mould. The eccentric millionaire in this case is Tom Newcliffe (Calvin Lockheart), who invites people he suspects of being werewolves to his country estate (fully equipped with surveillance equipment) in order to fulfil his hunter's ambition of bagging the ultimate predator. Newcliffe gathers his guests and explains to them the reason for his certainty that one of their number is a werewolf – all have been in the vicinity when unsolved animal-like killings have taken place. There is also a werewolf expert, Dr. Lundgen, on hand to enlighten all as to the nature of the beast (a splendid performance by Peter Cushing's cheekbones.)

Our intrepid hero does his best to rile his potentially lupine guests – he points out the full moon, serves up almost raw meat, sprays wolfbane pollen liberally about, and instigates the the exceptionally awkward parlour game of Pass-The-Silver-Candlestick. The wolf thus baited, night falls and the hunt begins...

This is truly a cracking movie. It's short, punchy, entertaining and does exactly what it sets out to do. One of its notably quirky features is the gimmick of the “werewolf break”. At the start, an ominous voice informs the audience that one of the characters is a werewolf, and they must figure out who it is. Helpfully, we the viewers are provided with a thirty second pause in the action to gather our thoughts and decide on a culprit. The film stops and a clock appears, ticking away the seconds in a scene so reminiscent of Countdown that one feels a slight but distinct urge to tackle an anagram or do some mental arithmetic.

Special mention must go to Mr. John Hilling, for providing Lockheart with such superb costumes – his wardrobe including an impressive array of jumpsuits, diamante-studded shirts, PVC jackets and the widest flares ever seen on someone not performing in a glam-rock band.

The Beast Must Die has a thoroughly enjoyable effervescence to it – from the funk-sountracked opening chase to the final dramatic reveal of the identity of the werewolf. It is a film unlikely to ever be regarded as one of the great classics of horror, but by my reckoning is well a worth 80 minutes of anyone's time.

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