The Beast Must Die


1h 33m 1974

Brief Synopsis

Tom Newcliffe, a rich businessman and expert hunter summons six guests to his huge country estate which he has rigged up with video cameras and a high-tech security system. He tells them and his surprised wife that they are all to stay over a weekend and that all of them will be kept on the estate during that weekend. For each guest, dead bodies have followed in their wake and the way that the dead have been murdered means that one of the guest is a werewolf and Tom has summoned his guests here to discover who it is and to hunt it down... The film has a clip at the beginning asking people in the audience to try to identify the werewolf and near the end there is a 30-second "Werewolf Break" for the audience to think over the evidence...

Film Details

Also Known As
Beast Must Die
MPAA Rating
Genre
Horror
Release Date
1974

Technical Specs

Duration
1h 33m
Sound
Mono
Color
Color (Technicolor)
Theatrical Aspect Ratio
1.66 : 1

Synopsis

Tom Newcliffe, a rich businessman and expert hunter summons six guests to his huge country estate which he has rigged up with video cameras and a high-tech security system. He tells them and his surprised wife that they are all to stay over a weekend and that all of them will be kept on the estate during that weekend. For each guest, dead bodies have followed in their wake and the way that the dead have been murdered means that one of the guest is a werewolf and Tom has summoned his guests here to discover who it is and to hunt it down... The film has a clip at the beginning asking people in the audience to try to identify the werewolf and near the end there is a 30-second "Werewolf Break" for the audience to think over the evidence...

Film Details

Also Known As
Beast Must Die
MPAA Rating
Genre
Horror
Release Date
1974

Technical Specs

Duration
1h 33m
Sound
Mono
Color
Color (Technicolor)
Theatrical Aspect Ratio
1.66 : 1

Articles

Beast Must Die, The - Are There Werewolves Among Us? - THE BEAST MUST DIE on DVD


In the early 1970's gothic horror films were waning in popularity, and companies that specialized in the genre found themselves struggling to adapt and find new trends to exploit. Hammer Films added generous amounts of gore and nudity to try to lure audiences, while American International Pictures shifted its focus to "blaxploitation" films like Coffy and Foxy Brown. Amicus Productions switched to science fiction adventure pictures like The Land That Time Forgot (1975) and At the Earth's Core (1976), but before they did they made a couple of attempts at modern horror films: the dull Vincent Price thriller Madhouse (1973) and the offbeat werewolf yarn The Beast Must Die (1974). A mix of Agatha Christie-style murder mystery, The Most Dangerous Game and traditional werewolf elements, with a black leading man to try to cash in on the blaxploitation craze, The Beast Must Die has recently been reissued on a new special edition DVD by Dark Sky Films.

The story: Millionaire Tom Newcliffe (Calvin Lockhart) invites several friends to his remote country estate in Scotland: Norwegian scientist Dr. Christopher Lundgren (Peter Cushing); diplomat Arthur Bennington (Charles Gray); artist Paul Foote (Tom Chadbon); pianist Jan Jarmokowski (Michael Gambon); and beautiful young Davina Gilmore (Ciaran Madden). Once all are assembled, Newcliffe makes an astonishing announcement: he believes that one of them is a werewolf. A veteran big game hunter, Newcliffe is seeking a new thrill and intends to hunt the creature. To prepare for this, he has hired security expert Pavel (Anton Diffring) to wire the estate with state-of-the-art cameras, microphones and ground sensors. Newcliffe's wife Caroline (Marlene Clark) and the guests scoff at Newcliffe's outlandish claim, but his beliefs are validated that night when Pavel is savagely killed and the security equipment is destroyed. As attempts are made on his life and more grisly deaths occur, Newcliffe becomes increasingly obsessed with determining the identity of the werewolf and putting and end to the monster's blood-drenched killing spree.

The Beast Must Die is loosely based upon the short story "There Shall Be No Darkness" by science fiction author James Blish. In the original story, Newcliffe is hosting an ordinary gathering when Paul Foote comes to believe that one of the guests is a werewolf. His suspicions are soon confirmed, and the bulk of the tale deals with the guests hunting the beast while trying to protect a young witch whose powers may make her the werewolf's deadliest enemy-or a powerful ally. Michael Winder's initial screenplay adaptation reportedly failed to satisfy director Paul Annett. Without the benefit of reading Blish's story, Annett and Scott Finch did a hasty rewrite, keeping the identity of the werewolf a mystery and modeling the structure after Agatha Christie mysteries like Ten Little Indians.

In spite of the film's attempts to bring something fresh and modern to a werewolf story, it's the old-fashioned mystery elements that are the most engaging. For movie fans, there's a cozy familiarity to the hokey old clichés the film employs: the mansion full of suspects; a dramatic declaration that someone is a killer; attempts on the protagonist's life by an unseen figure; red herrings to mislead us; etc. A veteran of television directing his first feature, Paul Annett handles these story elements well, although he doesn't bring much innovation to the formula. Adding to the fun of the mystery is a silly gimmick added by producer Milton Subotsky called the "Werewolf Break." Just before the climactic scene revealing the identity of the werewolf, the film stops and a narrator (Valentine Dyall) invites viewers to take 30 seconds to consider the suspects while clips of the cast are shown and the superimposed face of a stopwatch ticks away the time. (Subotsky was doubtlessly inspired by the nearly identical "Whodunnit Break" featured in the 1965 film version of Ten Little Indians.)

Unfortunately, the horror and suspense elements of the film are far less successful. There are two hunting sequences using Pavel's high tech gadgetry which don't generate much tension because we spend too much time watching Anton Diffring stare at monitors and talk into a microphone. The second scene has a nice twist in which the werewolf turns the tables and hunts Pavel, but the horror potential is ruined once we see that the terrifying werewolf is being portrayed by a big, fluffy, not-very-terrifying dog (specifically, an Alsatian Wolfhound augmented with a bit of makeup and extra fur for bulk). The film never recovers from this shortcoming; it's impossible to create a scary werewolf film when your monster looks like he just wants to play fetch and go for a walk. Annett tries to conceal the werewolf throughout the film with quick cutting and tight angles, but to no avail. A more creative director might have found a better way to compensate for the inadequate special effects, but Annett isn't up to the task, and his direction of the scare scenes is never better than workmanlike. The later hunting scenes (after Pavel's technology is destroyed) become repetitive and fall flat because we don't get a real sense of stalking and hunting; it just looks like Newcliffe is walking around his grounds with a gun. (Strangely, no one in the film ever questions the ethics of hunting a werewolf, even after Lundgren says they are victims of a disease with no control over their actions.) Noting the film's lack of thrills, Subotsky ordered the addition of a car chase in which one of the characters tries to flee the mansion, but this also fizzles. The photography and editing are routine and the drivers stay at a moderate speed, as if worried that that they cannot afford to damage the cars due to the film's low budget

Subotsky originally hoped to get Robert Quarry, star of the popular Count Yorga, Vampire (1970), to portray Newcliffe, but apparently decided to cast a black actor after the blaxploitation craze hit. Calvin Lockhart must have appeared to be an excellent choice. A student of the famous Uta Hagen and veteran of the Royal Shakespeare Company, he definitely possessed solid acting credentials, and he had made a strong impression in the blaxploitation action comedy Cotton Comes to Harlem (1970). Unfortunately, Lockhart delivers a wildly over-the-top performance, bellowing much of his dialogue like a stage actor playing to the back row of the balcony. His broadly theatrical style clashes with the more restrained work of the rest of the ensemble cast and throws the movie out of kilter.

Since the script wants us to keep guessing at the identity of the werewolf, the actors playing the suspects are at a disadvantage. Acting is about finding ways to express the truth of a character, but in this case everyone must keep their character slightly ambiguous to allow for the possibility that they may-or may not-be the guilty party. In spite of this, the supporting cast does fine work; one just wishes the script had something interesting for them to do. Tom Chadbon perhaps fares the best as the eccentric artist and chief suspect Paul Foote; he actually gets a little bit of character development as Foote's initial cool gradually gives way to mounting fear. Peter Cushing, employing an unconvincing Norwegian accent, is supposed to be a Van Helsing-like monster expert, and is thus saddled with numerous expository speeches about werewolves. He brings the necessary authority to the part and manages to add a few idiosyncratic touches, but one can't help but feel that his talent is being wasted in a dull role. The other cast members have even less to do. Charles Gray simply affects an air of aristocratic arrogance and delivers a few sarcastic quips. Michael Gambon, currently familiar to children around the world as Professor Dumbledore in the Harry Potter films, spends his screen time squirming and looking guilty, while Ciaran Madden's ill-defined Davina Gilmore worries and grows increasingly frightened. As Newcliffe's wife, Marlene Clark does a good job playing off the out-of-control Lockhart.

If The Beast Must Die ultimately isn't satisfying as a horror movie, it is still a difficult film to genuinely dislike. The "guess-who-the-werewolf-is" mystery is hokey fun, the cast is talented and the haircuts, fashions and music-all originally intended to be hip and trendy-are amusingly nostalgic relics of the early 1970's, the Decade That Good Taste Forgot. Dark Sky's new DVD is a welcome release for classic horror completists and Amicus fans. The 1.78:1 anamorphic transfer is an improvement over an earlier flat release by Image, but is markedly inferior to Dark Sky's other two recent Amicus releases, And Now the Screaming Starts and Asylum. The picture is slightly soft and shadow areas tend to appear a little murky, suggesting that the element used was at least one generation down from the original neg. The source is free of any major damage and the color is fairly good, although it looks as if it may have been artificially pumped up in telecine. The mono sound is unremarkable but clear and distortion-free.

The primary extra is an audio commentary with director Paul Annett and moderator Jonathan Sothcott. Annett reminisces about how he got involved with the project, working with the cast and struggles with Milton Subotsky. A video interview with Annett titled "Directing the Beast" covers some of the same ground. Also included are trailers for all of Dark Sky's Amicus titles, a still gallery, text biographies of selected cast a crew and liner notes by Christopher Gullo and Annett, who offers memories of working with Peter Cushing.

For more information about The Beast Must Die, visit Dark Sky Films. To order The Beast Must Die, go to TCM Shopping.

by Gary Teetzel
Beast Must Die, The - Are There Werewolves Among Us? - The Beast Must Die On Dvd

Beast Must Die, The - Are There Werewolves Among Us? - THE BEAST MUST DIE on DVD

In the early 1970's gothic horror films were waning in popularity, and companies that specialized in the genre found themselves struggling to adapt and find new trends to exploit. Hammer Films added generous amounts of gore and nudity to try to lure audiences, while American International Pictures shifted its focus to "blaxploitation" films like Coffy and Foxy Brown. Amicus Productions switched to science fiction adventure pictures like The Land That Time Forgot (1975) and At the Earth's Core (1976), but before they did they made a couple of attempts at modern horror films: the dull Vincent Price thriller Madhouse (1973) and the offbeat werewolf yarn The Beast Must Die (1974). A mix of Agatha Christie-style murder mystery, The Most Dangerous Game and traditional werewolf elements, with a black leading man to try to cash in on the blaxploitation craze, The Beast Must Die has recently been reissued on a new special edition DVD by Dark Sky Films. The story: Millionaire Tom Newcliffe (Calvin Lockhart) invites several friends to his remote country estate in Scotland: Norwegian scientist Dr. Christopher Lundgren (Peter Cushing); diplomat Arthur Bennington (Charles Gray); artist Paul Foote (Tom Chadbon); pianist Jan Jarmokowski (Michael Gambon); and beautiful young Davina Gilmore (Ciaran Madden). Once all are assembled, Newcliffe makes an astonishing announcement: he believes that one of them is a werewolf. A veteran big game hunter, Newcliffe is seeking a new thrill and intends to hunt the creature. To prepare for this, he has hired security expert Pavel (Anton Diffring) to wire the estate with state-of-the-art cameras, microphones and ground sensors. Newcliffe's wife Caroline (Marlene Clark) and the guests scoff at Newcliffe's outlandish claim, but his beliefs are validated that night when Pavel is savagely killed and the security equipment is destroyed. As attempts are made on his life and more grisly deaths occur, Newcliffe becomes increasingly obsessed with determining the identity of the werewolf and putting and end to the monster's blood-drenched killing spree. The Beast Must Die is loosely based upon the short story "There Shall Be No Darkness" by science fiction author James Blish. In the original story, Newcliffe is hosting an ordinary gathering when Paul Foote comes to believe that one of the guests is a werewolf. His suspicions are soon confirmed, and the bulk of the tale deals with the guests hunting the beast while trying to protect a young witch whose powers may make her the werewolf's deadliest enemy-or a powerful ally. Michael Winder's initial screenplay adaptation reportedly failed to satisfy director Paul Annett. Without the benefit of reading Blish's story, Annett and Scott Finch did a hasty rewrite, keeping the identity of the werewolf a mystery and modeling the structure after Agatha Christie mysteries like Ten Little Indians. In spite of the film's attempts to bring something fresh and modern to a werewolf story, it's the old-fashioned mystery elements that are the most engaging. For movie fans, there's a cozy familiarity to the hokey old clichés the film employs: the mansion full of suspects; a dramatic declaration that someone is a killer; attempts on the protagonist's life by an unseen figure; red herrings to mislead us; etc. A veteran of television directing his first feature, Paul Annett handles these story elements well, although he doesn't bring much innovation to the formula. Adding to the fun of the mystery is a silly gimmick added by producer Milton Subotsky called the "Werewolf Break." Just before the climactic scene revealing the identity of the werewolf, the film stops and a narrator (Valentine Dyall) invites viewers to take 30 seconds to consider the suspects while clips of the cast are shown and the superimposed face of a stopwatch ticks away the time. (Subotsky was doubtlessly inspired by the nearly identical "Whodunnit Break" featured in the 1965 film version of Ten Little Indians.) Unfortunately, the horror and suspense elements of the film are far less successful. There are two hunting sequences using Pavel's high tech gadgetry which don't generate much tension because we spend too much time watching Anton Diffring stare at monitors and talk into a microphone. The second scene has a nice twist in which the werewolf turns the tables and hunts Pavel, but the horror potential is ruined once we see that the terrifying werewolf is being portrayed by a big, fluffy, not-very-terrifying dog (specifically, an Alsatian Wolfhound augmented with a bit of makeup and extra fur for bulk). The film never recovers from this shortcoming; it's impossible to create a scary werewolf film when your monster looks like he just wants to play fetch and go for a walk. Annett tries to conceal the werewolf throughout the film with quick cutting and tight angles, but to no avail. A more creative director might have found a better way to compensate for the inadequate special effects, but Annett isn't up to the task, and his direction of the scare scenes is never better than workmanlike. The later hunting scenes (after Pavel's technology is destroyed) become repetitive and fall flat because we don't get a real sense of stalking and hunting; it just looks like Newcliffe is walking around his grounds with a gun. (Strangely, no one in the film ever questions the ethics of hunting a werewolf, even after Lundgren says they are victims of a disease with no control over their actions.) Noting the film's lack of thrills, Subotsky ordered the addition of a car chase in which one of the characters tries to flee the mansion, but this also fizzles. The photography and editing are routine and the drivers stay at a moderate speed, as if worried that that they cannot afford to damage the cars due to the film's low budget Subotsky originally hoped to get Robert Quarry, star of the popular Count Yorga, Vampire (1970), to portray Newcliffe, but apparently decided to cast a black actor after the blaxploitation craze hit. Calvin Lockhart must have appeared to be an excellent choice. A student of the famous Uta Hagen and veteran of the Royal Shakespeare Company, he definitely possessed solid acting credentials, and he had made a strong impression in the blaxploitation action comedy Cotton Comes to Harlem (1970). Unfortunately, Lockhart delivers a wildly over-the-top performance, bellowing much of his dialogue like a stage actor playing to the back row of the balcony. His broadly theatrical style clashes with the more restrained work of the rest of the ensemble cast and throws the movie out of kilter. Since the script wants us to keep guessing at the identity of the werewolf, the actors playing the suspects are at a disadvantage. Acting is about finding ways to express the truth of a character, but in this case everyone must keep their character slightly ambiguous to allow for the possibility that they may-or may not-be the guilty party. In spite of this, the supporting cast does fine work; one just wishes the script had something interesting for them to do. Tom Chadbon perhaps fares the best as the eccentric artist and chief suspect Paul Foote; he actually gets a little bit of character development as Foote's initial cool gradually gives way to mounting fear. Peter Cushing, employing an unconvincing Norwegian accent, is supposed to be a Van Helsing-like monster expert, and is thus saddled with numerous expository speeches about werewolves. He brings the necessary authority to the part and manages to add a few idiosyncratic touches, but one can't help but feel that his talent is being wasted in a dull role. The other cast members have even less to do. Charles Gray simply affects an air of aristocratic arrogance and delivers a few sarcastic quips. Michael Gambon, currently familiar to children around the world as Professor Dumbledore in the Harry Potter films, spends his screen time squirming and looking guilty, while Ciaran Madden's ill-defined Davina Gilmore worries and grows increasingly frightened. As Newcliffe's wife, Marlene Clark does a good job playing off the out-of-control Lockhart. If The Beast Must Die ultimately isn't satisfying as a horror movie, it is still a difficult film to genuinely dislike. The "guess-who-the-werewolf-is" mystery is hokey fun, the cast is talented and the haircuts, fashions and music-all originally intended to be hip and trendy-are amusingly nostalgic relics of the early 1970's, the Decade That Good Taste Forgot. Dark Sky's new DVD is a welcome release for classic horror completists and Amicus fans. The 1.78:1 anamorphic transfer is an improvement over an earlier flat release by Image, but is markedly inferior to Dark Sky's other two recent Amicus releases, And Now the Screaming Starts and Asylum. The picture is slightly soft and shadow areas tend to appear a little murky, suggesting that the element used was at least one generation down from the original neg. The source is free of any major damage and the color is fairly good, although it looks as if it may have been artificially pumped up in telecine. The mono sound is unremarkable but clear and distortion-free. The primary extra is an audio commentary with director Paul Annett and moderator Jonathan Sothcott. Annett reminisces about how he got involved with the project, working with the cast and struggles with Milton Subotsky. A video interview with Annett titled "Directing the Beast" covers some of the same ground. Also included are trailers for all of Dark Sky's Amicus titles, a still gallery, text biographies of selected cast a crew and liner notes by Christopher Gullo and Annett, who offers memories of working with Peter Cushing. For more information about The Beast Must Die, visit Dark Sky Films. To order The Beast Must Die, go to TCM Shopping. by Gary Teetzel

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Released in United States 1974

Released in United States 1974