Blu-ray Review: The Beast Must Die (1974)

August 20, 2020

Written by DanXIII

Daniel XIII; the result of an arcane ritual involving a King Diamond album, a box of Count Chocula, and a copy of Swank magazine, is a screenwriter, actor, artist, and reviewer of fright flicks…Who hates ya baby?

Let me tell you cats n’ creeps, when a movie begins and my eerie earholes are presented with what sounds like porno score raunchiness mixed with the incidental music from the Batman show from the ’60s I know I’m going to get plenty of werewolf action… or maybe just bushels of pubes, either way it’s going to be a hair-raisin’ good time!

A millionaire with waaaaay the fuck too much time on his hands gets a wild hair (too soon?) up his ass to invite a group of folks to his estate (which is rigged for recording, even on the sprawling grounds of the property) inform them that one of the gang is a werewolf, and when discovered, that person must be executed.

The fact (almost) everyone doesn’t immediately leave and actually believes this preposterous nonsense like a stone cold fact is reason number one that I love The Beast Must Die

Another reason to love this one is the stellar cast assembled, with Hammer stalwart Peter Cushing (in a pseudo-surrogate ‘Van Helsing’ role), Charles Gray (Rocky Horror‘s criminologist), and Michael Gambon (the Harry Potter series, Tim Burton’s Sleepy Hollow) being obvious standouts. But for my monstrous money, the film’s best performance comes from Calvin Lockhart (Predator 2‘s King Willie himself!) as the aforementioned millionaire, Tom Newcliffe… it’s an energetic, suave role and he plays it beautifully (and unholy hell would this dude have made a great Blade if a film was made around the era of the character’s creation).

Of course mention must be paid to screenwriter Michael Winder’s Clue by way of The Most Dangerous Game if written by Curt Siodmak narrative that provides plenty of suspects and suspense. The only thing it doesn’t offer is a lot of full-on werewolf action (and when it does it’s just a large German Sheppard with a mane glued on runnin’ around, so forget all about Mr. Monster Mother Fucker on the cover of this thing), so if you expected a creature-centric feature you may be a tad disappointed … but right from the get go you know this is going to be mystery first, monster movie second.

Additionally the pause in the film, “The Werewolf Break” gives viewers a chance to figure out the clues before the culprit is revealed and adds another layer of fun to the whole arcane affair, animated clock and all!

As for extras on this Blu-ray release from Severin, we kick things off with an audio commentary featuring the film’s director Paul Annett and filmmaker Jonathan Sothcott that examines the entire production of the film in detail.

Following that we get a video essay courtesy of film historian Troy Howarth discussing classic mystery novelist Agatha Christie’s influence on The Beast Must Die, as well as interviews with Annett (archival from 2003), and producers Milton Subotsky and Max J Rosenberg (in archival, audio only conversations… though stills accompany the pieces), and the film’s original theatrical trailer (with optional audio commentary by horror film scholars Kim Newman and David Flint).

Probably the best werewolf murder mystery you’ll ever damn see, The Beast Must Die is one hell of a furry fright flick whodunit that should not be missed!

 

 

 

 

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