Review of “The Beast Must Die” (1974)

trailer from YouTube

This is this week’s Saturday night pizza and bad movie installment. Had some yummy prosecco I bought for our anniversary. Might have to get some more before the next anniversary. We saw this with Svengoolie.

Plot:

The movie opens with a lone black man (Calvin Lockhart) running through the woods, pursued by several white men decked out in military-style uniforms and carrying serious-looking firearms. A helicopter pilot (Andrew Lodge) reports, “Have visual contact.” The fleeing man sees cameras and face-plants directly in front of a microphone protruding from the ground.

Well, hasn’t his day just gone down the tubes?

He runs toward a house where a group of well-heeled people sits chatting out on the terrace. There he falls (again?), and the men in uniform shoot him—just kidding! This is all an exercise. The guys in uniform work security for the man running through the woods, and the people on the terrace are his guests.

Tom Newcliffe is fabulously wealthy and has hunted just about every beast there is. He goes over his elaborate precautions with security chief, Pavel (Anton Diffring). The people he has invited to his island retreat all have checkered pasts. Mysterious deaths follow where they go. Bennington was a United Nations delegate until two members of his entourage mysteriously disappeared. There’s Jan (Michael Gambon), the pianist who is no longer welcome in certain world capitals, because wherever he plays, people end up with their throats slit. His girlfriend, Davina (Ciaran Madden) (who is also a personal friend of Newcliffe’s wife, Caroline (Marlene Clark)), seems to go to house parties where there’s always one guest ending up dead with their heart eaten. Paul Foote (Tom Chadbon), along with nine other former medical students, went to prison for eating a piece of human flesh. “Lab specimens,” he explains. The preservatives didn’t turn their tummies? Maybe the cafeteria closed early that night. Lastly, there’s Professor Christopher Lundgren (Peter Cushing), an archaeologist obsessed with—yep. Werewolves.

Newcliffe is convinced one of them is a werewolf, and he plans to hunt and kill it. Pavel doesn’t believe in werewolves. The old country was full of that nonsense.

Thoughts:

Mix a bit of Agatha Christie’s And Then There Were None, Richard Connell’s “The Most Dangerous Game,” and a splash of Blaxploitation, and you get this movie, but the biggest gimmick is the “werewolf break,” a thirty-second intermission—complete with a stop watch and Jeopardy “Think” music—in which viewers are instructed to guess the identity of the werewolf. I was wrong, but I really thought Col. Mustard in the library with the lead pipe looked good for it.

The movie takes itself seriously enough to slip into parody at times. Newcliffe’s obsession with security seems not only excessive, but he has a flair for the dramatic. After he runs onto the terrace and is attacked by several uniformed men early in the movie, his wife asks him, “Perhaps you can tell us why you arranged to have yourself shot.” As he walks around, telling each guest about their storied past, Caroline gets more irritated. Finally, she said, “Tom, if you’re trying to completely ruin our weekend…”

One guest tries to escape, and the viewer sees the result of grabbing electrified fences before reading the signs. Another tries to drive away, but Newcliffe is a better driver. Later, he removes everyone else’s distributor caps from their engine and pitches them in the river. His guests need to stay through three nights while the moon is full.

Tom is not hunting the werewolf out of a sense of righteousness or revenge. He’s hunting it because he thinks it would be cool to say he’s hunted and killed a werewolf, alongside all his other hunting trophies. He doesn’t mention where he’d keep that trophy. Maybe it would be just for the satisfaction of knowing he did it?

All in all, this is an okay horror/murder mystery movie. It speaks of obsession, mostly in watching Tom grow increasingly driven as time goes by, but it certainly isn’t making any profound statement.



Title: The Beast Must Die (1974)

Directed by
Paul Annett
Writing Credits
Michael Winder…(screenplay)
Paul Annett…(uncredited)
James Blish…(story “There Shall Be No Darkness”) (uncredited)
Scot Finch…(uncredited)

Cast (in credits order) verified
Calvin Lockhart…Tom Newcliffe
Peter Cushing…Dr. Christopher Lundgren
Marlene Clark…Caroline Newcliffe
Charles Gray…Bennington
Anton Diffring…Pavel

Released: April 1974
Length: 1 hour, 33 minutes
Rated: PG

Published by 9siduri

I have written book and movie reviews for the late and lamented sites Epinions and Examiner. I have book of reviews of speculative fiction from before 1900, and short works in publications such Mobius, Protea Poetry Journal, and, most recently, Wisconsin Review and Drunken Pen Writing. I'm busily working away on a book of reviews pulp science fiction stories from the 1930s-1960s. It's a lot of fun. I am the author of the short story "Always Coming Home," a chapbook of poetry titled "Sotto Voce," and a collection of reviews of pre-1900 speculative fiction, "By Firelight."

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