Buddyboy is a low-point in Nigel Kneale’s otherwise classic 1970s horror anthology Beasts, says CHRIS NEWTON
A young Martin Shaw and Pamela Moiseiwitsch star in the third episode of Nigel Kneale’s anthology, Beasts, about a Dolphinarium that may or may not be haunted.
Shaw plays Dave who, along with Stuart McGugan’s Jimmy, plans to buy the disused ‘Finnyland’ and convert it into a pornographic cinema as part of their empire of smut. Presumably they planned on renaming it… Well, never mind.
Their inspection of the abandoned building is going smoothly until they discover Lucy (Moiseiwitsch, whom you may recognise from Cry of the Banshee), a former Finnyland employee squatting on the site. The current owner, Hubbard (Wolfe Morris), is visibly spooked by her presence.
We learn that Lucy had a particular bond with ‘Buddy Boy’, one of Finnyland’s star attractions.
We never exactly find out how Buddy Boy died, although it is strongly implied that Hubbard had him killed, as he claims Buddy Boy infected the other dolphins with some kind of disease.
Lucy insists that the dolphinarium cannot be renovated as Buddy Boy is still there. Hubbard seems to agree, and is plagued by the ghostly whisperings of the creature. Once Dave realises this, he uses Lucy’s presence to torment Hubbard, offering him a much lower price once he knows how desperate Hubbard is to be rid of the building and, presumably, his guilt.
Hearing the dolphin’s cries whilst alone with Lucy, Dave surmises that the ‘ghostly’ sounds are actually an imitation by Lucy, who is throwing her voice. However, when he later finds Lucy’s corpse, having drowned herself, the cries remain. Is Buddy Boy’s ghost real? Is Lucy’s spirit now working her ventriloquism from beyond the grave? Or perhaps there was never a ghost, and Dave, like Hubbard, is now haunted by his own conscience.
I’ll be honest: I don’t really like this episode. ‘Pornographic Cinema Haunted By Ghost Dolphin’ sounds hilarious, but it doesn’t even manage to be that.
It’s actually the dreariest episode of the series. The primary setting is bleak and grey and depressing, the male characters are all heartless businessmen and, whilst we’re supposed to emphasise with Lucy, I just find her irritatingly pathetic. This isn’t helped by Moiseiwitsch’s terrible accent, which veers from Cockney Urchin to bad Coronation Street impression.
I am a big fan of the series, and its writer, so I shall endeavour to give credit where credit is due and attempt to find some positives. It’s strangely out of place with other entries in the series, in that it has no ‘beast’, although that’s arguably the point.
‘Buddy Boy’ should have been a wild animal, as Lucy laments in one particularly nauseating scene, but was born into captivity and lived his life confined to a single building. That claustrophobic sense of isolation pervades the episode, and perhaps I’m reaching here, but there does seem to be a parallel with Dave and Jimmy’s world of ‘adult entertainment’ – lonely men watching erotic images in darkened theatres in place of genuine, human connection.
It’s never more perfectly illustrated than in an otherwise seemingly unnecessary scene in which an aspiring actress comes to Dave’s office to show an unimpressed Martin Shaw her breasts.
“Very nice.” He comments dryly and without sincerity. The only hint of a meaningful connection throughout the whole thing isn’t a human relationship at all, but the bond between Lucy and Buddy Boy. She even seems to be dreaming of her dolphin friend whilst having sex with Dave. Is this the reason for Lucy’s post-coital suicide at the episode’s climax? She hoped for intimacy (“I want you to love me!”), but their encounter only served to remind her of her fundamental aloneness? Either way, she’s dead, and the credits roll over a swimming dolphin superimposed over the empty pool of the abandoned aquarium. Beasts doesn’t get any bleaker than this.
This episode is also notable for being the only one in the series to feature a musical score. Unfortunately, this doesn’t do it any favours as it often borders on the ludicrous. It’s also not helped by the fact that this episode is sandwiched between During Barty’s Party and Baby, which are by far the series best episodes.