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Monday, December 18, 2017

THE BEAST MUST DIE! -- Blu-ray Review by Porfle





THE BEAST MUST DIE! is exclusive to "THE AMICUS COLLECTION" (Blu-ray 4-volume box set) from Severin Films.
(And Now the Screaming Starts!/Asylum/The Beast Must Die/The Vault of Amicus)



One of the most hard-and-fast rules of cinema is that any movie is worth watching if it has a "Werewolf Break." 

Okay, I made that up, but I do find it to be true in the case of the 1974 Amicus werewolf thriller THE BEAST MUST DIE! (Severin Films), which not only does have a "Werewolf Break" but happens to be the only film I can think of to boast such a distinction.

It opens with a lively title sequence featuring eccentric millionaire Tom Newcliffe (American actor Calvin Lockhart, COTTON COMES TO HARLEM, UPTOWN SATURDAY NIGHT) being hunted by his own ex-military security staff in order to test their capabilities. This is in preparation for an antipated guest--namely, a werewolf. 


Newcliffe, in fact, has invited a varied array of men and women to his secluded estate for the weekend, believing one of them to be a werewolf and looking forward to the opportunity of hunting it down to satisfy his sadistic lusts for sport and blood, as he does every other kind of wild beast he comes in contact with.

Thus, we already get a strong THE MOST DANGEROUS GAME vibe, especially when Newcliffe makes it clear that none of the guests--that is, werewolf suspects--is free to leave the grounds until one of them has been exposed and terminated. 

There's also sort of a low-rent Agatha Christie flavor a la "And Then There Were None" and "Ten Little Indians", including even the traditional gathering of the suspects and surprise reveal at the end. (The script is actually adapted from a short story by James Blish, author of the very first Star Trek novel "Spock Must Die!")


What makes this variation on the old saw so much fun--besides, of course, the werewolf angle, which will have the attention of old-school monster fans from frame one--is the pure, undiluted 70s-era cheesiness of the whole thing. 

While capable enough, the direction by Paul Annett, as well as cinematography,  editing, and some rather broad acting, give the film the look and feel of a quickie TV-movie of the era. 

The original score by Douglas Gamley is perfectly fine and even somewhat reminiscent of Bernard Herrmann until he tries for a 70s funk-rock effect, which recalls the old thwacka-wacka 70s porn-movie backing tracks.

This, however, by no means hampers one's enjoyment of the film.  Rather, it increases it for viewers with a taste for fine cheese who revel in seeing such a cast, including Peter Cushing, Anton Diffring, Michael Gambon, and Charles Gray, taking part in such goings on. 


Calvin Lockhart himself overacts his role with such magnificent abandon that I kept wishing he could skip the werewolf and go up against Rod Steiger in a ham-actor cage match. 

With three successive nights of full moons, THE BEAST MUST DIE! gives us plenty of furious action (although the murky day-for-night photography sometimes makes it hard to see just what's going on) as well as lots of ensemble drama pitting the hot-blooded hunter against his own reluctant guests as he tries to trick each into revealing his or her hidden lycanthropy.  This includes even his wife, Caroline (Marlene Clark, who also tends to emote rather robustly).

When we see the werewolf itself, it's rather disappointingly played by an actual canine rather than a person in werewolf makeup (which I, being a lifelong fan of such films as THE WOLF MAN and CURSE OF THE WEREWOLF, would much prefer). 

I got used to this, however, and was primed when the film finally paused for its delightfully hokey "Werewolf Break", a gimmick harkening back to the days of William Castle in which we're given thirty seconds to weigh the clues and decide the true identity of the werewolf.  (I was wrong, and you probably will be, too.)


The Blu-ray from Severin Films looks good despite occasional imperfections in the source material.  Personally, I prefer my vintage monster flicks with a hint of the old grindhouse look since that's the way they used to look running through a theater projector for the thousandth time back in the good old days.  So to my eyes, the film looks just fine.

Special features include an audio essay by horror historian Troy Howarth, an informative commentary track with director Paul Arnett, the featurette "Directing the Beast" with Arnett again, and the theatrical trailer.  These extras, like the film itself, are exclusive only to the Severin 4-volume set "The Amicus Collection", which also includes "Asylum", "And Now the Screaming Starts", and "The Vault of Amicus."  Both English and Spanish soundtracks are available, with English subtitles.

There are those, of course, who will find this  practically unwatchable if they require their horror films to be more costly, refined, and sophisticated.  That's fine for them, but I'm one of many who can watch a movie like THE BEAST MUST DIE! and relish it every bit as much as those other ones--and, occasionally, even more. 


THE BEAST MUST DIE! is exclusive to "THE AMICUS COLLECTION" (Blu-ray 4-volume box set) from Severin Films.
(And Now the Screaming Starts!/Asylum/The Beast Must Die/The Vault of Amicus)







Read our reviews of:

AND NOW THE SCREAMING STARTS
ASYLUM
THE VAULT OF AMICUS



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