Time once more for my blog feature, DT Moviehouse Reviews, in which I make my way alphabetically through my 200+ DVD/Blu-Ray collection (you can see the list right here) and decide if each one was worth the money. This go around, The Beast Must Die.
(1974) Directed by Paul Annett
Screenplay by Michael Winder, based on the story “There Shall Be No Darkness” by James Blish.
Tagline: When The Moon Is Full, One Of These Eight People Will Turn Into A Werewolf! Can You Guess Who It Is When We Stop The Film For THE WEREWOLF BREAK? See…Solve It…But Don’t Tell!
What It’s About:
Rich, eccentric big game hunter Tom Newcliffe (Calvin Lockhart) invites six guests to his mansion and locks them in along with his wife, Caroline (Marlene Clark). The guests include bon vivant artist (and convicted cannibal) Paul Foote (Tom Chadbon), pianist Jan Jarmakowski (Michael Gambon) and his lover Davina Gilmore (Ciaran Madden), diplomat Arthur Bennington (Charles Gray), and lycanthropy expert Professor Lundgren (Peter Cushing). He confronts them with his belief that one of them is an actual werewolf, and he intends to figure out who and hunt them down.
Why I Bought It:
Every year writer Jeff Carter hosts a Black-O-Ween party, in which we all get together and watch blacksploitation horror movies from the 70’s. Past showings have included The Thing With Two Heads, Blackenstein, Blacula, Scream Blacula Scream, Sugar Hill, Abby, Dr. Black And Mr. Hyde, and JD’s Revenge. As the tradition has progressed, it’s become steadily more difficult to obtain movies. Netflix has a lot, but just this past year, our selections were unavailable. So my buddy Elliot purchased Abby, and I got The Beast Must Die, sight unseen.
Technically, as a British production, The Beast Must Die isn’t really a blaxsploitation movie. But, the legendary Werewolf Of Watts was never actually produced, and as one of the alternate titles for this movie is (SPOILER)……..Black Werewolf……. (END SPOILER), we decided to take a chance on it.
I’m frankly glad I picked this up. It was a better movie than Abby, with a very pulpy feel. It was refreshing too, to see the debonaire Lockhart as the main character (a great black hunter, if you will – you might remember him as the rastafarian leader in Predator 2 – “There’s no killin’ what can’t be killed…”) with a loyal white manservant (butler Sam Mansaray) who unbenknownst to the guests, sits alone in a room of TV monitors and watches each of them, reporting to his master. The characters are all well portrayed, non-stereotypical, and sufficiently sinister and sketchy to cast reasonable blame on every one of them. By the end I wasn’t sure who the werewolf was.
Peter Cushing is pretty much a less action oriented version of his Hammer Studios Van Helsing here, and young Dummbledore is nearly unrecognizable.
The tests Lockhart comes up with are pretty cool, guided by Professor Lundgren. They range from holding silver candlesticks and silver bullets in their mouths, to inhaling wolfsbane. The werewolf is of the big shaggy dog variety (the ‘true’ werewolf), but it didn’t detract from the experience. There was a particularly harrowing scene where Lockhart’s loyal hunting dog tangles with the werewolf to protect its mistress. Good animal action.
Not much more to say about it without giving it away. It’s worth a watch.
Best Bit Of Dialogue: Pavel the butler, observing Davina Gilmore, remarks, “She looks like butter wouldn’t melt in her mouth.” To which Tom replies, “Maybe she prefers MEAT.”
About ten minutes from the end, the promised Werewolf Break occurs. I’m just gonna put it right here…
It reminded me of the ‘you have two minutes to leave the theater’ break before the bloody ending of Il Contre Tous (I Stand Alone), and had us all giggling and racing to voice our theories. Great Halloween party movie.
Would I Buy It Again: Yes, I’m glad I picked it up.
Next In The Queue: Ben Hur