The Beast Must Die! (Paul Annett, 1974)

posted in: Duane, Review | 0
A gazillionaire big game hunter invites 6 people to his newly decked out hi-tech estate mansion for a dinner party because he suspects one of them is a werewolf. Soon he reveals the deadly game he has devised in order to flush out and subsequently hunt the fiend.
I have mixed feelings about this one. Essentially we have a big game hunter played by Calvin Lockhart (the filmmakers have even admitted that this was an attempt to cash in on the then popular Blaxploitation craze, complete with an opening where the seemingly victimized negro tries to escape the clutches of the evil white men) holding a group of acquaintances (and his wife) hostage because he wants to wave wolfsbane under their noses and make them play hold the silver candlestick (no, seriously… this happens a few times). There’s not really a lot of action to speak of for the first half of the film save for an encounter with a werewolf that just looks like a dog and some over ambitious gore effects that just fall flat, and the rest of the time it’s kind of like watching a game of Clue with much pontificating as to who may or may not be the werewolf in question, where was this character during this scene, where was that character during that scene, etc. etc… it all ends up pretty much being an exercise in banality. Admittedly as soon as I saw the werewolf was a dog, I kind of checked out (one of the benefits of being a pretentious douche is being able to make such knee-jerk shallow postulations). But in my defense I expect werewolves to be Naschy-esque awesomeness. There is no excuse for anything else.

An interesting segment in The Beast Must Die! is the included “werewolf break” where the film pauses before the last 15 minutes for the audience collects their thoughts about who the werewolf could be before the big reveal. It’s an interesting gimmick to be sure, but it’s unfortunate that the plot is so nonsensical and there are no real logical clues to even attempt a remotely informed assumption as to who the hairy beast really is. Now that I know who the culprit is, thinking back to all the red herrings and obvious false clues it just comes across as lazy and sloppy filmmaking with no regard to even attempt to give the viewer a chance. I’d also like to point out that I guessed correctly…. because I’m fucking awesome.

Cushing! Classes up everything.
I’m a sucker for anything Peter Cushing (Horror of Dracula, Twins of Evil), I will admit. He is however wasted in this as he has not a whole lot of screen time and he’s relegated to trying to croak out this horrendous fake German accent through the film while the whole time being exceedingly English (look at him butter those pieces of toast!). Calvin Lockhart (Wild at Heart, Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me) is amusing as the boisterous hunter with the sweet fro who evidently hasn’t learned a thing about hunting in all his previous adventures. The man is easily the worst shot I have ever seen. He can’t even hit a target with a machine gun from a helicopter. No seriously, he misses constantly with the goddamn thing and there is a motherfucking helicopter. The rest of the cast are a hodgepodge of stereotypes… the flamboyant playboy, the humorless gruff dude, the obligatory hot chick (played by Ciaran Madden who incidentally isn’t hot at all), the strong Nubian wife of the hunter…. ok stereotypes may be influenced by 1974… as were the outfits. Oh those poor souls. I also quite enjoyed the soundtrack which is primarily comprised of jazzy background muzak.
Ambitious gore
As I touched on earlier there are a couple scenes of graphic violence, and I appreciated the effort despite said effects looking fairly cheap and oddly bloodless given the nature of the wounds. There is also no nudity contained herein and The Beast Must Die! needs all the help it can get. Amping up the sleaze factor would have been a great idea (when isn’t it?).
The Beast Must Die! was produced by Amicus, which has always seemed to me to be a  poor man’s Hammer studios although they did have their moments… namely 1970’s The House that Dripped Blood that starred both Christopher Lee (The Whip and the Body, To the Devil… A Daughter) and Peter Cushing, both Hammer stalwarts. The production values  here are decent but not spectacular (although if you are in possession of a time machine, go back to 1974 and buy stock in red LED lights…. you’ll make a killing when they decide to make this) but they did manage to have a fairly lengthy car chase and blow up a helicopter so I guess someone was pumping in the cash. It’s unfortunate that they didn’t decide to get someone to actually create a wolfman as is advertised on the poster. In essence, The Beast Must Die! is interesting as an anomaly in film execution but ultimately disappoints on pretty much every level. Seasoned (read: bored) genre fans may want to check it out as an oddity, everyone else will just be pissed off about the dog.
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Duane co-founded The Church of Splatter-Day Saints in 2005. When not immersed in film he's enjoying good whiskey, smoking meat in the backyard or thinking about sluts. He makes a damn fine habanero fire sauce.

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