The Beast Must Die DVD Review
Written by Steve Pattee
DVD Released by Dark Sky Films
I don't have to take that kind of talk from you. – Arthur Bennington
You just did. – Tom Newcliff
Written by Michael Winder, based on James Blish’s novel There Shall Be No Darkness
Directed by Paul Annette
1974, Region 0 (NTSC), 93 minutes, Rated PG
DVD released on July 25th, 2006
Calvin Lockhart as Tom Newcliff
Peter Cushing as Dr. Christopher Lundgren
Marlene Clark as Caroline Newcliff
Anton Diffring as Pavel
Charles Gray as Arthur Bennington
Ciaran Madden as Davina Gilmore
Tom Chadbon as Paul Foote
Michael Gambon as Jan Jarmokowski
The movie opens with a man running through the forest, chased by a group of armed men. If that weren’t enough, there’s also a helicopter trailing him, and a man in a control booth following his every move—and feeding it back to the pursuers. How he does it becomes clear when the hunted man notices cameras mounted on trees and mics protruding from the ground. There is seemingly no escape.
But after some near misses, he somehow does manage to break free, exploding out of the woods onto the back lawn of someone’s mansion—where a group of eight people appear to be having a tea party.
That’s when his pursuers finally catch up to him, gun him down and disappear back into the forest.
After some hooting and hollering, the tea party checks the man’s body, assuming the worst. But the man starts to laugh. He wasn’t dead after all! It was all just a ruse!
The man is Tom Newcliff. Great hunter, philanthropist and owner of the mansion.
The people are his guests.
Newcliff (Calvin Lockhart – Cotton Comes to Harlem) wasn’t on the run from anything—he was simply testing the security of his property for holes. See, Newcliff has hunted and killed about every animal but a werewolf. And, unbeknownst to the others, that’s exactly what one of his guests is.
With the full moon rising, no one is leaving until Newcliff gets his wolf. No matter how many people have to die.
If you are coming to see a werewolf movie, move along, there’s nothing to see here.
If you are coming to see a film that tries its best to be a mystery first, a werewolf movie second, and is a good time either way, step right up.
Sure, The Beast Must Die has a werewolf (by way of a dog in disguise) and some werewolf attacks. Sure, The Beast Must Die invites you, the viewer, to participate in the movie by stopping it right before the unmasking of the wolf so you can make your guess, using the clues given to you, who the lycanthrope is. But what Beast is, more than anything else, is a man, Newcliff, obsessed with bagging a werewolf.
Okay, let’s get the wolf part out of the way first. As mentioned, the wolf is nothing more than a dog. There are no elaborate transformation scenes. There are a few cool kills, but most of the time you see the wolf (dog) running through the woods, being chased by Newcliff via land and air.
Next, it’s hard to be a detective when most of the clues presented to you are nothing more than red herrings. Everything you see is a red herring, so don’t bother trying to figure out the mystery. Just take a wild stab at the break, and hope you get it like I did.
But, even with those two little flaws, the movie is still fun to watch. Newcliff, in particular, provides a boundless source of entertainment as he gets more and more obsessed with uncovering the werewolf by any means necessary. Calvin Lockhart did a fantastic job with the character. Yes, by today’s standards, he may come off as cheesy, but who doesn’t like cheese now and then?
In addition, Marlene Clarke (Switchblade Sisters) is wonderful as Newcliff’s wife, Caroline. Caroline is the yin to her husband’s yang. She thinks, and rightfully so, that he is out of his gourd and he should let his “guests” go home. He, of course, will have nothing of the sort.
The acting across the board is solid, but don’t be fooled by the box cover. Yes, the great Peter Cushing is in Beast. Hell, his is the biggest head on the box cover. But he’s still a just a supporting actor in this one, and surprisingly not very memorable. The most memorable award goes to Anton Diffring as Pavel, the control room guru.
Diffring is a great, great straight man. He makes it clear he has no time for this werewolf nonsense, but that doesn’t stop him from doing his job. Like Caroline, Pavel is the anti-Newcliff in both beliefs and demeanor, but unlike Caroline, he doesn’t give a rat’s ass about the guests. He’s just there to work. For as little he has to say, he is pretty memorable. He’s like the Boba Fett of Beast.
Ironically, if the movie fails at one thing, it’s the scenes in the control room. While Diffring has some of the most memorable scenes in that very room, it’s also, for the most part, where nothing happens. Newcliff and Pavel stare at a wall full of monitors, waiting for something to happen. And, in turn, we get stuck watching the monitors with them. You have to give credit to Lockhart and Diffring for not making those scenes completely unwatchable.
All in all, for a werewolf flick that doesn’t have a whole lot of werewolf, Beast does have some bite. It’s not a gushing wound like I would have hoped, but it’s enough for you to take a look at.
Video and Audio:
Dark Sky Films did a pretty damn good job with Beast’s 1.78:1 presentation. There is some evidence of grain in a few scenes, but overall, it’s a fine looking picture. Blacks are suitably so and the colors are strong with no visible bleeding.
The Dolby Digital mono track is hit or miss. While mostly hit, there were a few times when I had to adjust the volume due to low voices. I wasn’t expecting DTS, or even 5.1, on this release, so I could live with grabbing the remote on those occasions.
English subtitles are available.
- Photo Gallery
- Director’s Commentary
- Featurette: Directing the Beast
The commentary with director Paul Annette is a great listen. He has a wonderful memory of his Beast, his debut film, considering it’s been over 30 years. There are very few blank spots, and Annette’s reminiscing more than makes up for those.
“Directing the Beast” is a great watch on how the movie came to be, from script to filming. Annette tells a great story on how he first met Cushing. That tale is worth the watch alone.
Trailers for The Beast Must Die, And Now the Screaming Starts and Asylum are offered and, for those of you who get into them, there’s a photo gallery of 20 or so pictures.
Part of Dark Sky Films’ new “Amicus Collection” (currently consisting of The Beast Must Die, And Now the Screaming Starts and Asylum), Beast is a damn fun movie, all things considered. Give it a rent.