Starring Calvin Lockhart, Peter Cushing, Marlene Clark, Anton Diffring, and Charles Gray
Directed by Paul Annett
Distributed by Dark Sky Films
From the second it starts, you know you’re watching a Seventies classic. Even before a single frame of film rolls, the viewer is treated to an opening that for fans of this film is as wonderfully familiar as a favorite T-shirt. A close-up picture of a werewolf graces the screen, and we are told via talking subtitle that what we are about to see is a detective story, and we are to be the detectives. We’re then told to “Watch for the Werewolf Break“! But what is a werewolf break, you ask? Apparently, right before we find out which character in this vintage fang-fest suffers from “the curse,” the movie pauses and the viewer is allowed thirty seconds to shout out his/her answer. William Castle himself couldn’t have done it better. Classic stuff!
Before we ponder that any further, let’s delve into the story for the unaware. Tom Newcliffe (Calvin Lockhart) is a very wealthy expert hunter. He lives for the thrill of closing in on his prey and sealing the deal. But what’s a guy to do when he’s already hunted every type of conventional game there is? Start looking for the unconventional of course. Enter several key players. Guests at his island home for the weekend. Guests that can easily be tied to many different types of gruesome murders. Once his guests have been assembled, Newcliffe lets them in on a couple of things that are sure to make their weekend getaway quite memorable: They are trapped there with nowhere to go, and oh yeah, one of them is a werewolf.
It’s not long before the bodies start mounting and the track of said beast gets hotter and hotter. Can you figure out who the creature is before the now famous Werewolf Break? The clock is ticking, and the fun has just begun.
I remember watching The Beast Must Die on TV when I was just a little Creepy and being completely bored by it. When the DVD came for review, I was, let’s just say, less than excited. The werewolf in this flick is just a really big dog, and damnit, back then I wanted a cool looking monster! Screw style! Screw substance! Give me a rampaging murderous creature! Before today, I can honestly say that I haven’t watched this flick in like twenty years. Man, have I been missing out. It’s amazing how much age can make you appreciate certain things a lot more. The Beast Must Die is a horror classic in every sense of the word. It has it all: horn heavy bow-chica-bow-wow Seventies theme music, a badass soul brother as the lead character who screams about ninety percent of his dialogue, some surprising gore that I’m sure didn’t make it to the small screen when I originally watched on TV, and one of the true masters of our genre, Peter Cushing.
And hey, let’s not forget about the Werewolf Break. To my surprise this memorable moment was not originally in the director’s cut but was inserted there by Amicus producer Milton Subotsky in an attempt to “save” the film. Director Paul Annett wasn’t even aware of this inclusion until The Beast Must Die was ready to be distributed. Annett still seems very annoyed by this tampering but hesitantly concedes on the film’s commentary track that the Werewolf Break, like it or not, has done a lot to keep this film’s memory alive amongst fans.
There are a few more interesting tidbits revealed in said commentary, but overall the track is very much on the dry side. Also included on the DVD is a fourteen-minute interview with Annett titled Directing the Beast which is more or less like a fourteen-minute video version of his commentary, a special tribute to Cushing by Annett, a still gallery, Amicus trailer gallery, cast and crew text bios, and liner notes. Not a huge package, but very competent.
Contraray to my popular childhood belief The Beast Must Die is a damned near perfect film as is. It doesn’t need any big special effects or modernization of any kind. While even Annett himself expresses interest in doing a remake at the very end of his video interview, I for one hope this film remains as it is – pure entertainment! What we have here, folks, is an atmospheric, white knuckled trip starring not only a big bad wolf but also a badass mofo donned in leather waitin’ to pop a cap in some trick wolf’s ass. Solid, my brother. Right on! Get this DVD now!
Commentary by director Paul Arnett
Directing The Beast featurette
Paul Arnett’s tribute to Peter Cushing
Cast and crew bios
4 out of 5