Image Entertainment presents
The Beast Must Die (1972)
"Just part of my grand design, the same plan that got you all here at the same time. Why do you think I invited you? Because every one of you sitting right here in this room has one thing in common: Death."- Tom Newcliffe (Calvin Lockhart)
Stars: Calvin Lockhart, Peter Cushing, Charles Gray, Anton Diffring
Other Stars: Ciaran Madden, Tom Chadbon, Michael Gambon, Marlene Clark
Director: Paul Annett
MPAA Rating: PG for violence, mild gore
Run Time: 01h:32m:06s
Release Date: 2001-04-10
DVD ReviewIt has often been said that there are no new stories, just new ways of combining the details. The Beast Must Die is a combination of three classics, The Most Dangerous Game, And Then There Were None and The Wolf Man, dressed up with a silly little gimmick. The "Werewolf Break" three-quarters of the way through the movie gives the armchair detective a chance to state which of the suspects he feels is the werewolf. The gimmick has a little bit of dated charm to it, especially when accompanied by the foreboding tones of the narrator, giving a throwback to the old 1950s William Castle movies.
Millionaire big game hunter Tom Newcliffe (Calvin Lockhart) has converted his estate into a surveillance operation with high security for the purpose of bagging the biggest game of all: a werewolf. To that end, he has invited five guests to his home, each of whom leaves a trail of death and missing or mutilated bodies in their wake. Newcliffe is convinced that one of his guests (among them, Peter Cushing and Charles Gray) is a werewolf, and means to hunt him or her to death. But the werewolf proves elusive and the body count quickly rises.
This movie, originally produced by the British Amicus studio, works on two levels; one is the kiddie werewolf story which has gaping holes in its logic and is downright silly. Why must one of the guests be a werewolf? For that matter, accepting werewolves, why must only one of them be a lycanthrope? Why couldn't they all be? But this never occurs to Newcliffe. On a far more interesting level, we have the story of a hunter gone completely mad, entrapping these people on his estate and threatening to kill them; Tom's paranoia results in any attempt to escape being taken as proof of that guest's inhuman status. Indeed, this view of the movie is far more chilling and more emphasis on it would have resulted in a far better production.
Making the millionaire a well-spoken black man is an intriguing twist that isn't really taken anywhere. The marvelous Marlene Clark (who in the next year would star in the cult vampire classic Ganja and Hess) is effective as Tom's long-suffering wife Caroline. Peter Cushing adopts a not-altogether-convincing Swedish accent as Dr. Lundstrom, an archaeologist obsessed with lycanthropy. His character plays fast and loose with established werewolf lore, coming up with a new and different "fact" all through the movie. Charles Gray as a murderous UN delegate is one of the few having a good time with his part, being snide, surly and bitterly humorous throughout. The other guests are a rather colorless lot who don't have much to do or say, though the hairy Paul Foote (Tom Chadbon) has a nice moment as he contemplates shaving the hair off the backs of his hands with a straight razor.
There are precious few special effects here. Given the mystery setup of the film, there aren't any transformation shots; even after the monster is revealed there isn't any transformation, but immediately the character turns into a large dog (much of the time, it looks like a large stuffed dog!) very abruptly.
In the end, the mystery is solvable, though the clues are subtle. A repeat viewing discloses that the film does generally play fair on its clues, although the 'facts' about lycanthropy that Dr. Lundgren gives out keep getting slightly revised when all of the suspects get eliminated.
Rating for Style: C-
Rating for Substance: D+
|Aspect Ratio||1.66:1 - Widescreen|
|Original Aspect Ratio||yes|
Image Transfer Review: Although the film proper appears to be transferred in a proper 1.66:1 widescreen ratio, the distributor credits are cropped at the sides, indicating that it was probably shown in a 1.85:1 format, at least in the US. The source print is in fairly poor condition, with lots of speckles throughout. These are particularly distracting during the many nighttime scenes. The compression work is adequate, without the picture looking digital or over-enhanced. Colors are generally good, although washed-out and dated in some of the exteriors. Blacks are good though shadow detail is lacking. Many of the nighttime scenes are illegible in the extreme.
Image Transfer Grade: C-
Audio Transfer Review: The original mono audio is included, in all of its crackly and hissy glory. Clearly nothing was done to help the presentation here. The sound is quite thin and lacking in range. However, dialogue is generally understandable, which is good considering there are no subtitles.
Audio Transfer Grade: D+
Disc ExtrasStatic menu
Scene Access with 12 cues
Extras Review: Nothing whatsoever, not even a trailer. Chaptering is a little less than adequate.
Extras Grade: D-
Final CommentsAn odd horror-mystery with enormous holes in the plot, with low entertainment value. Only for British horror aficionados.
Mark Zimmer 2001-06-28