Jarv’s Schlock Vault: The Beast Must Die

One of you guests is a werewolf. I know it.

Jarv’s Rating: 2.5 Changs out of 4- Stupendously entertaining weird and cheap little gem of a film. In fact, I do believe it’s completely unique.

Man, I fucking love this film.

I know by most reasonable considered standards it’s pretty shoddy, and I know that Amicus were little more than a third-rate Hammer knock off studio, but this bizarre little film has been one that I’ve returned to roughly every five years. This is just such a weird idea, and I can’t believe that nobody else ever thought to do something like this, and even if it doesn’t represent the highest form of the werewolf movie, there’s always something to enjoy here.

The first scene of the film, to be honest, opens the story in the most shady fashion. A black dude, Calvin Lockhart,  snazzily dressed in the height of 70’s fashion in a black leotard with a perfectly coiffed fro is being hunted through the woods. Is he being stalked by a werewolf? Nope, it’s a group of white guys being directed by another white guy. I bet this scene gets wanked over endlessly at Klan meetings. Eventually, he gets gunned down in front of a group of English toffs enjoying their afternoon tea, but it’s alright as he’s Tom Newcliffe, millionaire hunting douchebag extraordinaire, and he’s just checking his security. You see, one of his guests is a WEREWOLF!!! and our man Tom has a lifelong dream to hunt him down and kill him. The guests consist of a young Michael Gambon as a concert pianist stalked by death around Europe, Peter Cushing as Dr. Lundgren, Werewolf-ologist and all round deliverer of important exposition, Marlene Clark as Tom’s wife, Charles Gray and other quality actors.

It turns out that Tom has less than extensively researched his house guests and as such knows that they’ve all been implicated in various grisly crimes- aside from Cushing, who’s a werewolf fancier expert. Anyhow, over the next few nights, Tom is going to bag himself the biggest and rarest game of the lot.

This is a huge amount of fun. It’s basically a standard Agatha Christie set up, but instead of there being a murderer on the loose and a dodgy Belgian with an inexplicable moustache to solve things there’s a werewolf on the loose and a black dude with a big gun. Hilarious- think Ten Little Indians crossed with The Most Dangerous Game. All the actors, particularly Cushing, Gambon and Lockhart all seem to be having a blast- with Cushing getting lengthy monologues to explain the terrible disease that is lycothranpy. Special note must go to Tom Chadbon as dubiously hairy borderline homosexual Paul Foote, who starts out believing it all to be a blast before degenerating into little more than a gibbering wreck by the end.

A nice touch to The Beast Must Die is that lycanthropy is depicted as a disease, and a terrible, ravaging incurable one at that. Cushing runs through the symptoms, and explains what triggers the transformation (something to do with the lymphatic system apparently). This is quite a novel take on the idea, and listening to someone like Cushing classily deliver absurd movie science just made me giggle again.

Nevertheless, this is a famous film, and it’s famous for basically one thing. The actual opening of the film is a pompous voiceover explaining that this is a murder mystery except with werewolves and towards the end of the film they will be stopping proceedings for a “Werewolf break” so the audience can sit down and consider who the werewolf is. Amicus were very literal people so right at the climax of the action, the big parlour scene reveal, the film literally stops, a clock pops up and we get a slow procession of pictures of the characters to ponder. This is such a good idea, particularly if there’s a group of you that I find it hard to believe that it preceded video technology by so much and that nobody, particularly in this age of STV, has bothered to recreate it. I’d seen the film on numerous occasions, and guessed wrong, but it was a pleasure this time talking with Mrs. Jarv about who she thinks did it. I suppose you could just stop a murder mystery and then restart it, but this is so much more fun in a really cheesy way.

Nevertheless, I said right at the start of this review that The Beast Must Die is a shoddy film, and I stand by that. To begin with, Amicus were never exactly flush with cash, and although the majority of the film apparently takes place at night the majority of the shooting clearly took place at the height of daytime. Not just any daytime, but a pleasant, sunny summer afternoon. All the characters cast shadows when outside, the sky is blue and it can on no level at all be remotely classed as being at night.

However, and more importantly, there is no transformation scene in this film. That was clearly far, far beyond the limited budget available. Moreover, the brilliant idea for the wolf was to give a medium-sized black dog a big shaggy leonine mane and then film it running around. This isn’t a bad idea, per se, but unfortunately some genius used the friendliest dog in the United Kingdom. The pooch is clearly having a blast: his tail’s wagging, he’s jumping about and he’s just not an intimidating beast-he looks more likely to lick you to death than chomp anything vital. We are not talking about The Hound of the Baskervilles here and it’s very hard to imagine this dog as a hungry killing machine.

Who's a good boy then?

Overall, if you haven’t seen this, then I do recommend it. The Beast Must Die is a curio, but a wonderfully entertaining one. Even if you have seen it, give it a few years, get some weed and watch it again, but try to have at least one person in the group that hasn’t seen it before- it is cheap and cheerful but massive amounts of fun.

Until next time,

Jarv.

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About Jarv

Workshy cynic, given to posting reams of nonsense on the internet and watching films that have inexplicably got a piss poor reputation.

36 responses to “Jarv’s Schlock Vault: The Beast Must Die”

  1. Toadkillerdog says :

    Never heard of it, but Ill give it a try. I remember Calvin Lockhart from somewhere, just can’t put my finger on it. maybe a Bill Cosby 70’s flick?

  2. Continentalop says :

    Fuck. I’ve been meaning to see this forever and have yet to do so. You’ve just confirmed it’s mintness so I must rectify this.

    (And just a guess, Col. Mustard is the werewolf, right?)

  3. just pillow talk says :

    I need to see this!

    Peter Fucking Cushing.

  4. Echo the Bunnyman says :

    Jarv,

    Im once again calling for a changed rating on this. As your good and detailed review points out this is a fun and clever film, and it’s entertaining even amidst its flaws. I think its a solid three-starrer. However, Im using the same criteria as before. Evil Bong has 3 stars to its name. The Beast Must Die 2.5?

    I think Amicus did a terrific job with very limited resources and even as a kid I enjoyed the ‘cereberal’ nature of the story over some dude in a suit eating faces.

    • Jarv says :

      I’m sticking with it. I can’t be Lucas style reworking everything.

      If anything, I need to rewatch Evil Bong- as I was caned and I’ve clearly graded it too high.

      If I had to choose between this and EB then it’s this every time.

  5. Spud McSpud says :

    JARV YOU LEGEND!!

    This movie is unmissable. Fucking funniest so-called “horror” movie EVER.

    William Castle WISHES he’d come up with a gimmick this cool. I love this movie.

  6. ThereWolf says :

    I get a kick out of this movie too. You’re right about it being rather shoddy – but all that is easily forgiveable.

    Believe it or not, I used to think the ‘werewolf break’ let the film down. Thankfully, I have since seen sense.

    Funny as fuck when pissed up…

  7. DocPazuzu says :

    Yeah, I love this one too. It’s all so very earnest and loveable that you gladly overlook the shoddiness of the whole thing. It’s a great concept and the cool 70s vibe is perfect icing on this cheesecake.

    Oh and Calvin Lockhart was last seen as a decapitated dreadhead voodoo dude in Predator 2 (another underrated film).

    • just pillow talk says :

      I cannot gather any love for Predator 2.

      No fucking way Danny Glover lives to tell the tale…

      • DocPazuzu says :

        Aw, c’mon — Bill Paxton, Gary Busey, Robert Davi, Teri Weigel’s tits, blood, spine-ripping, gangs being fucked up, “Taaake iiit…” and the coolness of having the Predator in the big city. There’s plenty to love there.

      • just pillow talk says :

        The Buse was the only good thing about it.

        And Bill Paxton’s lack of acting skilz was on full display, but what a shitty follow-up to the original. I mean, if you compare the two, it’s pretty ridiculous the fall-off.

        A team of bad asses gets whooped by a Predator, but Danny Glover beats him? Fuck that, even Arnuld barely survived.

      • Droid says :

        I’m with DocP. I like Predator 2. Sure, it’s not as good as the original which is an absolute belter (which reminds me, it’s next in the arnie series), but it’s fun.

      • Droid says :

        And it’s miles better than the recent Predators shitfest.

      • Spud McSpud says :

        “Ya can’t see de eyes of de demon… till ‘im come callin’… Prepare yaself!”

        Best scene in that entire movie. Priceless match cut with the scream echoing over the severed head, carried away in Zack Snyder-esque slo-mo.

        It’s shit, but you have to love PREDATOR 2. Though the comic it’s based on – the first ever PREDATOR comic series by Dark Horse Comics – is immeasurably better. Far cooler ending, too.

      • Jarv says :

        Predator 2- Meh. Busey FTW though.

        Don’t forget that it is to blame for AvP.

  8. tombando says :

    This sounds like a primo MSTK3 target. Must….see….soon…

  9. redfishybluefishy says :

    ooh, i see it’s on stagevu. sounds like fun.

    • Jarv says :

      Is it?

      You’re in for a treat then. It’s awesome.

      • DocPazuzu says :

        I actually had a proper Hammerthon at my place about a year and a half ago which gradually morphed into a Peter Cushing-thon.

        Nobody rocks the badass tweeds like The Cush. His effortless, gentlemanly cool in the face of supernatural evil is worth watching any horror movie he’s in, no matter how awful — and most of them are gems.

      • Jarv says :

        Mrs. Jarv hates Hammer, so I’ll never again get to experience all the joys of a Hammer-thon. We always used to finish with Dr. Jekyll and Sister Hyde when we did it when was younger.

      • DocPazuzu says :

        How can she hate Hammer? That’s… that’s… I’ll tell you what that is: grounds for a divorce. Curse of The Werewolf, Scars of Dracula — that’s proper fucking entertainment!

      • Jarv says :

        I dunno, it’s weird considering the shite she does like.

        However, she loved The Beast Must Die, so I’m thinking that she can be re-educated.

      • DocPazuzu says :

        You should try The Creeping Flesh. It’s not Hammer (Amicus, I think) but it has both The Cush and Lee and is very cool in a schlocky way.

      • Jarv says :

        I think I’ve seen that.

        Goddamit, that’s my goal for 2011. Get Mrs. Jarv to like Hammer.

      • Droid says :

        Goddamit, that’s my goal for 2010. Get Mrs. Jarv to like Hammer.

        I guess your goal for 2011 is to build a time machine then?

      • Droid says :

        Damn you! You ruined my joke!

  10. Jacob Black says :

    Seriously love reading about anything vampire related. Team Jacob all the way! 🙂

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