Cinema Sunday: The Beast Must Die (1974)

The_Beast_Must_Die

Title: The Beast Must Die

Distributor: Amicus Productions (British Lion Films)

Writers: James Blish (short story), Michael Winder (screenplay)

Director: Paul Annett

Producers: Max Rosenberg, John Dark, Robert Greenberg, Milton Subotsky

Starring: Peter Cushing, Calvin Lockhart, Marlene Clark, Charles Gray

Released: April 1974

MPAA: PG

OK, I know this isn’t a film most will recognize, but it was one (maybe THE one) that got me interested in werewolves! I remember seeing it on T.V. when I was a little kid, and it scared the crap out of me! Yeah, the “werewolf” doesn’t hold up really well as an adult viewing it, but it still has a good cast, including the horror icon, Peter Cushing, and a couple of unique things about it that no other werewolf movie has that I’ve personally ever seen! So, without further interruption, let’s get to it!

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The opening scene shows a man, Tom Newcliffe (Calvin Lockhart), as he’s running through a wooded area, and being tracked by not only a helicopter, but also soldiers. They are all being directed by another man, Pavel, who is using advanced equipment to track Tom. Twice they catch him, but are directed to let him go. As Tom finally makes his way to an open area near a mansion, we see a few people sitting at a table outside, having a meal. As Tom gets closer to the people, the soldiers emerge from the woods, and shoot him in the back! A scream from one of the guests rings out, and they all come running to see if Tom can be saved. We quickly realize that the bullets were blanks, and Tom laughs at the situation. His wife, Caroline (Marlene Clark) is not amused.

Later that day, Tom is introducing everyone to each other, and we see his intentions on throwing this dinner party. He tells Arthur Bennington (Charles Gray), Jan and Davina Gilmore (Michael Gambon & Ciaran Madden), Paul Foote (Tom Chadbon), and Professor Lundgren (Peter Cushing), that death seems to follow all the guests, and that he believes one of them is a werewolf. He also states that the estate has been electronically bugged, so he can track and kill the animal for sport. Most of the guests don’t believe they even exist, but Professor Lundgren does, and has some expertise on the subject.

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Tom then meets with Pavel, who, coincidentally doesn’t believe him either, and tells him that he needs him to watch the estate, while he sleeps. Not long into the night, the sensors fire off that there is activity on the estate. Pavel wakes Tom, and then directs him to the nearby wooded area to track it. Tom eventually gets a quick look at it, but it evades him, then heads back to the house. Tom urges Pavel to get something silver to fight off the creature, but Pavel grabs a pistol instead. Before you know what’s happening, a large wolf is on the rooftop by a skylight, and Pavel attempts to shoot the animal. It either evades the shots or they have no effect, and then it dives through the glass, and Tom hears Pavel scream. By the time Tom returns to the mansion, he finds Pavel dead in his chair (nice shot of that scene below).

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The next day, Tom tells his chopper pilot that they’ll be on the hunt tonight, so be ready. He told the rest of the staff to go home for a few days, so that no one else will be in jeopardy. Tom then removes the rotary arm from each vehicle on the estate, so he wont have to worry about anyone leaving. As Tom is walking around the estate, he’s nearly shot with an arrow by Paul Foote. Foote tells him that he’s been “hunting the hunter”, and plays it off as a drunken joke. Tome berates him, and then shows him what he’s done to the cars. At dinner, Tom announces what he’s done, and that it’s twelve miles to the nearest neighbor. Bennington gets furious about this, but Tom doesn’t care. Foote also gets grumpy, and the rest of the crowd is growing aggravated as well. Caroline then grabs a candlestick and smashes a mirror with it, cutting herself.

the-werewolf-break

In the evening, Tom and his chopper pilot find the werewolf running around the property. After trying to shoot it from the chopper doesn’t work, Tom decides he’s going to get up close and personal with the beast. He follows it into a dark barn, but unbeknownst to him, Davina, Caroline, and Professor Lundgren have also followed out to the barn. Caroline’s dog rushes in and begins to fight with the werewolf. It loses that battle, and the werewolf bolts out the door before Tom can do anything to stop the beast. It then mauls the chopper pilot, and heads back towards the mansion. Meanwhile, Caroline is distraught about her dog. Tom steps in, and tells Professor Lundgren to take the two ladies back to the mansion. Tom then euthanized the dog. Tom then comes back to the house, and all are accounted for except Bennington. As Tom enters the room, he sees blood everywhere, and Bennington on the floor, dead from various wounds.

As the next day begins, the body count will rise even higher, and the question arises, can anyone stop the beast from killing again?

OK, here are my thoughts:

Are the “special effects” cheesy? Yes. Do some of the actors over act? Yes. BUT, listen to me when I tell you this the movie is still pretty good! If you can get past the wolf-dog, you can get through this movie, and enjoy it in the meantime too! Calvin Lockhart is a great protagonist, and when you throw in Peter Cushing (certainly a smaller role than we’re used to seeing him in), you get two solid actors that know how to play their parts. One of the things I alluded to earlier, is that this film has a couple of cool things that are a surprise. First off, with 3/4 of the movie in the can, you get the voice of the narrator telling you “it’s time for the werewolf break”. You get exactly thirty seconds to try to use the clues that were given to guess who you think is the culprit (pic above). Now, granted there are only five people left at this stage of the game, but it’s still a cool concept. Secondly, the story also has a unique twist ending, for Tom, and Caroline. I wont spoil it, but believe me, you wont see this one coming.

Overall, I’d give this movie a solid rating, because of Lockhart and Cushing, plus the twists I spoke of above. Again, the werewolf looks like a coked up dog running around, but it was 1974, and I’m sure half of the budget was blown on Peter Cushing and a few explosions. I’ll freely admit to giving this movie a higher score than most out of pure nostalgia as well. See you next Sunday for more movie madness!

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3 comments on “Cinema Sunday: The Beast Must Die (1974)

  1. Oh, wow, I love this movie! Like yourself, I saw it on TV when I was a kid, and I thought it was scary as hell. Of course, re-watching it on DVD as an adult, I now realize the werewolf was played by a big shaggy dog. Seeing the behind-the-scenes photos of the cast & crew posing with said dog, you get the impression that in real life he was actually “a big mush,” as my girlfriend like to say.

    But, whatever, this is still a cool movie. It’s like someone decided to do a mash-up of Hammer Horror and Blaxploitation, which sounds insane, but it totally works. Peter Cushing turns in a typically solid performance. Calvin Lockhart is also quite good. And I have a soft spot for Tom Chadbon’s loony alcoholic artist (he was also great in the Doctor Who serial “City of Death”).

    Like

  2. Pingback: Cinema Sunday: Scream of the Wolf (1974) | Magazines and Monsters!

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