TITLE: The Beast Must Die
YEAR RELEASED: 1974
DIRECTOR: Paul Annett
CAST: Peter Cushing, Calvin Lockhart, Charles Gray, Michael Gambon, Ciaran Madden, Tom Chadbon
REVIEW BY SIMON BALL
Having shot just about anything that moves millionaire big game hunter Tom Newcliffe decides to invite a bunch of folks to stay at his remote mansion just when the wolfsbane blooms at full Moon.
Yes one of these folks is a werewolf and Tom is desperate to add one of those beasties to his hunting trophies.
Newcliffe’s guests are werewolf expert Professor Lundgren (Peter Cushing), concert pianist Jan Gilmore (Michael Gambon) and his wife Davina (Ciaran Madden), diplomat Arthur Bennington (Charles Gray), artist Paul Foote (Tom Chadbon). With the exception of Lundgren, each guest has a dodgy past linked to some unexplained murders and at the very beginning of the movie the audience are posed the question “Who is the werewolf?” and then urged to follow the clues dished out before getting the opportunity to make their choice with a 30 second “Werewolf Break” towards the end of the film.
So essentially The Beast Must Die is an Agatha Christie-style ‘locked room’ mystery with an added dash of lycanthropy. As if that wasn’t enough of a mash up, Amicus also decided to cash in on the Blaxploitation movie craze sweeping early 70s cinema by casting Bahamian born actor Calvin Lockhart (Cotton Comes to Harlem/Halls of Anger) as Newcliffe and then as an added bonus gave him a Q type gadget man assistant (Anton Differing) to look after all the hi-tech surveillance gear and hidden microphones.
While it isn’t an altogether terrible movie The Beast Must Die has dated really badly. It has a sub Lalo Schifrin jazz funk score that really does not suit a Brit horror flick and some of the outfits poor old Peter Cushing has to endure are truly dreadful. Sadly, despite the budget spent on the hi-tech set dressing and Newcliffe’s helicopter there wasn’t enough cash left over to create a truly memorable werewolf, so a German Shepherd with dyed black hair extensions got the gig – thus The Beast Must Die is truly a genuine shaggy dog story.