Horror Movie A Day: Quint on THE BEAST MUST DIE (1974)
Watch for the werewolf break!
Ahoy, squirts! Quint here with today’s installment of A Movie A Day.
[The regular A Movie A Day list has been frozen in order for me to do an all-horror line-up for October. I’ve pulled many horror titles from my regular “to see” stack and have ordered many more horror and thriller titles to make sure we have some good stuff. Like the regular AMAD column all the movies I’m covering are films I have never seen, but unlike the regular AMAD column I will not connect each film to the one before it. Instead I will pull a title at random every day and watch whatever the movie Gods determine for me.]
Today’s movie, the Amicus production THE BEAST MUST DIE directed by Paul Annett and starring a bunch of incredible actors, including the great Peter Cushing, ROCKY HORROR PICTURE SHOW’s Charles Gray and future Dumbledore Michael Gambon, is actually nearly brilliant. While it falls short of brilliance it still is a lot of fun.
The flick opens on as blaxploitation star Calvin Lockhart (COTTON COMES TO HARLEM, LET’S DO IT AGAIN) is running through the woods in full ‘70s glory. He’s wearing a black leotard and sporting an awesome, perfectly formed afro.
He’s being hunted by something. Is it a werewolf? Nope, it’s a group of white men, being directed by a voice over their headsets. We see cameras in the trees, mics on the ground and the guy gets caught, but is let go.
He finally runs out of the woods, onto a posh lawn as a group of upper class people sit outside, having tea. The group of men close in behind him and fire. He falls to the shocked gasps of the party goers.
But then he pops back up again. He is Tom Newcliffe, owner of the estate and organizer of the hunt. It was all an ultimate test for an extreme security center. If anyone could find a weakness it is this man, an expert hunter. But he could not navigate it, so it passes the test.
The party guests are there at his invitation. He knows many of them and a few he invited blindly, based solely on research.
Like any good Agatha Christie-esque mystery, all of them have something in common. Newcliffe believes one of them to be a werewolf and being bored of having all the power, wealth and experience that his lifestyle has afforded him that leaves only one avenue left for him to get a thrill. He calls them there to spend the weekend, of a full moon, knowing that at least one of them will turn and he’ll have an animal he can hunt.
What a great set-up, right?
And the character work is fantastic. All these different people have different reasons why they’re there. One’s a pianist who is getting over an illness and also, coincidentally, has toured many cities where mutilated bodies popped up. One brags about eating human flesh in his youth, a charming swinger type with unusually hairy hands. Everybody has a background like that or something that may be coincidence, but that’s good enough for Newcliffe.
The one possible exception is Peter Cushing, an expert on lycanthropy. He has never seen one, but has a faith that they exist and has scientifically backed up theories on the legend vs. reality. In fact, a lot of time Cushing explains certain things (like an allergy to silver and the effects of wolfsbane on someone infected) much like Max Brooks would do decades later, but for zombies in his wonderful ZOMBIE SURVIVAL GUIDE.
Cushing has a sort of empathy for someone infected, stressing that if werewolves do in fact exist that the werewolf should always be considered a victim, having no choice in his state and no control over his or her turn.
Now, the central gimmick of the movie is a dare. It dares you to uncover the mystery, decipher the red herrings and guess, correctly, who the werewolf is. It even gives you a time-out, 30 seconds of a clock counting down, to make your guess as the faces of the suspects flash before you. As usual, I overthought it and totally guessed wrong. But it was a good guess.
I thought it was the Polish security guy, not exactly part of the invited guests, but at the same time he was employed specifically for this purpose by Newcliffe. Of course, this dude is the first victim of the real werewolf, which happens off camera, but we see a pretty gory result (face half-gone, open eye-socket gaping), which once again proved my inability to accurately guess the ending to mystery films.
You know what I loved about that guy, though? When Newcliffe reveals his intentions to the group, this guy (like the dude in the Matrix, sitting in front of a bank of floor to ceiling monitors) reacts perfectly. Newcliffe asks him his opinion. Does he believe werewolves exist? He says something like, “Why do you think I left Poland?”
I love it in movies when they have a fantastic element, but portray it as a kind of regular every day reality. They don’t go that far here, but they make it seem like a world where lycanthropy isn’t a thing of mere superstition and fantasy.
There is a downside to this movie, unfortunately and that’s in the execution of the werewolf. I’m not a traditionalist when it comes to my movie monsters, I’m slowly discovering. I don’t like the puppeted VooDoo version of zombies nearly as much as the Romero living dead and I don’t like werewolves that are just dogs. I like my werewolves creatures, be they the bipedal Lon Chaney Jr. version or the quadropedal monsters like the David werewolf in Landis’ AN AMERICAN WEREWOLF IN LONDON.
Here, the werewolf is a dog. Not even a wolf, but a dog forced to wear some lion-like black mane. And not even an angry dog, but a happy, tail-wagging, tongue-lolling dog. Look at the DVD cover and the original poster… nothing close to that is ever seen in this movie, which is its biggest flaw.
I loved the new spin on the werewolf mythos, putting out there that someone infected can show a certain level of control over the change depending on how far along the disease is and how old they are. If it was me, I would have ended it a little differently, though. The surprise pick of the werewolf isn’t a bad one by any means, but I think I would have taken it a step further. Why does there only have to be one of the invited guests? What if he spread his net so wide he got more than one? What if the twist was that they were all werewolves?
Final Thoughts: The time period is almost perfect for this story in all but one aspect. The cast is perfect, just enough old school screen actors like Cushing to give the movie a certain class and enough of the younger, badasses like Gambon and Lockhart that you could only get in the ‘70s. The empowered black man and Michael Caine era stone-cold British dude. Unfortunately this film takes place seemingly after the golden age of innovative Jack Pierce make-up and before the new wave of young talent like Rick Baker and Rob Bottin and the werewolf suffers for it. Thankfully this monster movie had a lot more going for it than the monster. The end result is a really fun, entertaining whodunit that gives us a new look at the werewolf legend.
Here are the titles in the drawing pool for the rest of October:
Wednesday, October 1st – Friday, October 31st: H-MAD! Horror Movie A Day! Check out the list here!
Added two more titles to the drawing pool! Click above to check out the noobs!
Now’s the the time to pull the next HMAD!
Next up is:
HELLGATE! That one promises to be a nice slice of ‘80s cheese, though THE PIT, the other film in that double feature set, is more highly talked about. We'll see tomorrow.
June 2nd: Harper
June 3rd: The Drowning Pool
June 4th: Papillon
June 5th: Gun Crazy
June 6th: Never So Few
June 7th: A Hole In The Head
June 8th: Some Came Running
June 9th: Rio Bravo
June 10th: Point Blank
June 11th: Pocket Money
June 12th: Cool Hand Luke
June 13th: The Asphalt Jungle
June 14th: Clash By Night
June 15th: Scarlet Street
June 16th: Killer Bait (aka Too Late For Tears)
June 17th: Robinson Crusoe On Mars
June 18th: City For Conquest
June 19th: San Quentin
June 20th: 42nd Street
June 21st: Dames
June 22nd: Gold Diggers of 1935
June 23rd: Murder, My Sweet
June 24th: Born To Kill
June 25th: The Sound of Music
June 26th: Torn Curtain
June 27th: The Left Handed Gun
June 28th: Caligula
June 29th: The Elephant Man
June 30th: The Good Father
July 1st: Shock Treatment
July 2nd: Flashback
July 3rd: Klute
July 4th: On Golden Pond
July 5th: The Cowboys
July 6th: The Alamo
July 7th: Sands of Iwo Jima
July 8th: Wake of the Red Witch
July 9th: D.O.A.
July 10th: Shadow of A Doubt
July 11th: The Matchmaker
July 12th: The Black Hole
July 13th: Vengeance Is Mine
July 14th: Strange Invaders
July 15th: Sleuth
July 16th: Frenzy
July 17th: Kingdom of Heaven: The Director’s Cut
July 18th: Cadillac Man
July 19th: The Sure Thing
July 20th: Moving Violations
July 21st: Meatballs
July 22nd: Cast a Giant Shadow
July 23rd: Out of the Past
July 24th: The Big Steal
July 25th: Where Danger Lives
July 26th: Crossfire
July 27th: Ricco, The Mean Machine
July 28th: In Harm’s Way
July 29th: Firecreek
July 30th: The Cheyenne Social Club
July 31st: The Man Who Knew Too Much
August 1st: The Spirit of St. Louis
August 2nd: Von Ryan’s Express
August 3rd: Can-Can
August 4th: Desperate Characters
August 5th: The Possession of Joel Delaney
August 6th: Quackser Fortune Has A Cousin In The Bronx
August 7th: Start the Revolution Without Me
August 8th: Hell Is A City
August 9th: The Pied Piper
August 10th: Partners
August 11th: Barry Lyndon
August 12th: The Skull
August 13th: The Hellfire Club
August 14th: Blood of the Vampire
August 15th: Terror of the Tongs
August 16th: Pirates of Blood River
August 17th: The Devil-Ship Pirates
August 18th: Jess Franco’s Count Dracula
August 19th: Dracula A.D. 1972
August 20th: The Stranglers of Bombay
August 21st: Man, Woman & Child
August 22nd: The Little Girl Who Lives Down The Lane
August 23rd: The Young Philadelphians
August 24th: The Rack
August 25th: Until They Sail
August 26th: Somebody Up There Likes Me
August 27th: The Set-Up
August 28th: The Devil & Daniel Webster
August 29th: Cat People
August 30th: The Curse of the Cat People
August 31st: The 7th Victim
September 1st: The Ghost Ship
September 2nd: Isle of the Dead
September 3rd: Bedlam
September 4th: Black Sabbath
September 5th: Black Sunday
September 6th: Twitch of the Death Nerve
September 7th: Tragic Ceremony
September 8th: Lisa & The Devil
September 9th: Baron Blood
September 10th: A Shot In The Dark
September 11th: The Pink Panther
September 12th: The Return of the Pink Panther
September 13th: The Pink Panther Strikes Again
September 14th: Revenge of the Pink Panther
September 15th: Trail of the Pink Panther
September 16th: The Real Glory
September 17th: The Winning of Barbara Worth
September 18th: The Cowboy and the Lady
September 19th: Dakota
September 20th: Red River
September 21st: Terminal Station
September 22nd: The Search
September 23rd: Act of Violence
September 24th: Houdini
September 25th: Money From Home
September 26th: Papa’s Delicate Condition
September 27th: Dillinger
September 28th: Battle of the Bulge
September 29th: Daisy Kenyon
September 30th: Laura
October 1st: The Dunwich Horror
October 2nd: Experiment In Terror
October 3rd: The Devil’s Rain
October 4th: Race With The Devil
October 5th: Salo, Or The 120 Days of Sodom
October 6th: Bad Dreams
October 7th: The House Where Evil Dwells
October 8th: Memories of Murder
October 9th: The Hunger
October 10th: I Saw What You Did
October 11th: I Spit On Your Grave
October 12th: Naked You Die
October 13th: The Wraith
October 14th: Silent Night, Bloody Night
October 15th: I Bury The Living
Readers Talkbackcomments powered by Disqus
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Oct. 17, 2008, 2:58 a.m. CST
by a rolling stone
This was always one of my favorites. They even stop and give you a minute to make your guess before the werewolf is revealed. Cool flick. Nick pick.
Oct. 17, 2008, 3:02 a.m. CST
that I have seen a lot of movies. But you are proving me wrong. There are so many classic gems I have yet to discover. I love me a great werewolf tale. I need to be hitting amazon pretty soon.
Oct. 17, 2008, 3:02 a.m. CST
I'm always looking for good Werewolf movies.
Oct. 17, 2008, 3:11 a.m. CST
And it even goes I,i,I,i.
Oct. 17, 2008, 3:31 a.m. CST
will check it out. Hey Q, how do you decide which film to watch when you pull a double feature out of the bag? Why come hellgate instead of pit?
Oct. 17, 2008, 3:46 a.m. CST
I hate when in movies they spring a surprise like that just to throw audiences off.. *it wasn't one, but two*. I think it shows confidence on part of makers that they didn't have to resort to *trick* of turning movie's primary premise [one werewolf amongst guests] around to make sure ending is surprise enough.<p> Now, if at start they establish there could be more than one, or give hints to that in movie, then am okay with it. Or at least gave the idea that werewolf *may have* bitten someone... THEN it makes sense, not otherwise.
Oct. 17, 2008, 3:46 a.m. CST
Hellgate is BAD. The Pit is also bad, but not "Hellgate bad".
Oct. 17, 2008, 3:48 a.m. CST
I too loved that spin about level of control. They could have then used THAT spin to establish a new dynamic that lets one [viewers, if not characters] discern the new and the old werewolf.
Oct. 17, 2008, 4:09 a.m. CST
by Charlie & Tex
...but with this, we will! It's tremendous fun, with Gray actually putting the effort in rather than just waiting to be paid for it. The director hated the Werewolf Break imposed on him, saying that when you are drunk on a friday night, it is probably brilliant - and annoying that it is the thing about his movie people remember most.
Oct. 17, 2008, 4:34 a.m. CST
That's a cool name for a band.
Oct. 17, 2008, 5:37 a.m. CST
....possibly the greatest car chase in cinema history that occurs when Gambon tries to leave the grounds! Simply awesome!
Oct. 17, 2008, 6:09 a.m. CST
by Lost Jarv
pah. <P>I can't get The Pit in Region 2. That sucks.
Oct. 17, 2008, 6:25 a.m. CST
Oct. 17, 2008, 6:59 a.m. CST
by Napoleon Park
but sometimes a few of the higher extended basic channels leak through. When a VCR broke down and I had to hook up and program a different one, I flipped though the channels to see if I gained or lost any "leak through" channels and suddenly I had AMC and an hour later I was watching the emmy winning best drama Mad Men and a couple hours after that I saw part of this film. I loved the leads bellbotton jumpsuit but it didn't really grab me so I turned to the computer and just listened to it and when I turned around the end credits were running. Oh well, sounds like Q liked it more than I did, but then he's comparing it to some of the other stuff he's had to put up with lately, including "Unwatchable".<p>I did get the Agatha Christie connection, but the pace and the cheese factor kept me from getting entranced.
Oct. 17, 2008, 7:30 a.m. CST
by Grammaton Cleric Binks
peak. This movie was just so cool. Kind of like Agatha Christie's And Then There Were None, but with a werewolf. The werewolf break was funny. I forget if it was his wife or girlfriend. "What if it's me?" Points finger like a gun "Bang"
Oct. 17, 2008, 8:06 a.m. CST
I actually saw this at a drive-in a few years back as part of a film festival in the town of Milford, PA. (They were showing it because James Blish, who wrote the short story the movie was based on had lived in the area.)<br> Believe it or not, it was a double feature with the first volume of THE ANIMATION SHOW! Some KFC and a carload of friends made for a great viewing party.
Oct. 17, 2008, 8:18 a.m. CST
by Josh Acid
Watch The Pit! It's a thing of perverse beauty. But you don't have to take my word for it...Listen to this guy (aka also me): http://joshacid.livejournal.com/2008/06/18/
Oct. 17, 2008, 9:20 a.m. CST
Too bad I missed the William Castle era with shit like Duo-Vision and Psychorama. Wish they'd make a comeback. Wasn't there some interactive haunted house DVD out some while back? Was it any good?
Oct. 17, 2008, 9:35 a.m. CST
It does have a sort of Lew Grade Persuaders television feel to it - almost like it could have been the pilot to a long lost ITC show about Monster Detectives - the music, the clothes, the cast - it all feels like it exists in the same world as Dracula AD 1972 and Satanic Rites of Dracula.<BR><BR>I love Amicus, Hammer and Tigon - okay they couldn't compete with Hollywood horrors of the time, this came out after The Exorcist but by Christ these studios output was amazing. Some utter crap but some genius as well.<BR><BR>
Oct. 17, 2008, 10:23 a.m. CST
by The Reluctant Austinite
Prepare yourself for another "unwatchable" review if you watch "Hellgate." "The Pit," however, is a strange semi-classic owing much to the types of stories often written for EC horror comics. I love the line; "I'm going to look at this a lot." Please, Quint, don't endure "Hellgate."
Oct. 17, 2008, 11:16 a.m. CST
Quint is probably watching Hellgate as opposed to The Pit because he has already seen The Pit. I've never seen The Beast Must Die, always wanted to, though. It sounds a lot like the Howling V, or whatever number it was, where all the people are in a castle and one of them is a werewolf. I found myself enjoying that one a lot more than expected. It must be the formula.
Oct. 17, 2008, 11:19 a.m. CST
by Anna Valerious
She is hilarious. http://tinyurl.com/6rs2pt
Oct. 17, 2008, 12:08 p.m. CST
Oct. 17, 2008, 12:12 p.m. CST
Damn, back in the days I used to watch this movie at least twice a year. Hope I can find my tape. Besides the great actors I love two things about it: the genius werewolf makeup which consists of a old rug, stapled to a little dog and the brilliant day for night shots for the helicopter scenes. The Pilot even wears his sunglasses in the middle of the "night". Perfect entertainment
Oct. 17, 2008, 12:38 p.m. CST
I'm sorry but I thought it was mostly crap. Very little happened and what did was obvious and anticlimactic. It had a GREAT setup, and Calvin Lockhart was faboo, but went nowhere.
Oct. 17, 2008, 2:14 p.m. CST
How I discern titles on the double-feature sets: I don't pull a DVD out of a bag every day. Instead, I wrote down every title on a small strip of paper and put those titles into a plastic bag. Every day, I swirl the titles around and, without looking, I pull one piece of paper and see what I'm watching next. So, that's how I pulled Hellgate before The Pit. If I was just pulling DVDs you better believe I'd watch The Pit before Hellgate, but that's not what my God of Film has decided for me.
Oct. 17, 2008, 3:01 p.m. CST
I have always loved this movie but always hated the dog as the werewolf. It just sucks so bad, it's frustrating. It was so close to being a perfect werewolf movie. They should absolutely remake it with today's SFX and give it the werewolf it deserves. Hopefully they could find a cast to live up to the original.
Oct. 17, 2008, 3:28 p.m. CST
by The Dum Guy
Good movie about a monster, and then a real fucking wolf shows up (with literally razor sharp fangs).
Oct. 17, 2008, 4:32 p.m. CST
not werewolves...and it was a great early '80s flick. I liked Albert Finney in his I'll be in anything phase. This and Looker...
Oct. 17, 2008, 5:55 p.m. CST
I own this flick. (Which is just what it is, btw.) Why? Because the Son of Svengoolie, Rich Koz, is a genius who know how to get kids to love, I mean LOVE, movies. And I don't mean he gets them to love "great" movies. He knows how to get them to love movies. Period.--I just hope that somehow, despite my inescapabale luck, that said love will find me a seat to Butt-Numb-A-Thon this year. Hear me Fates! Send not an "error!"
Oct. 17, 2008, 10:44 p.m. CST
Oct. 17, 2008, 10:45 p.m. CST
Damned shift key... Anyway, it is the chronicle of a pervert and his pet pit of weird-arse things... It sucked, nowhere near as good as the good sucky films... Quint, have ye seen "Waxwork?" Your thoughts?
Oct. 18, 2008, 1:38 a.m. CST
Haven't seen The Pit yet, but I hope it's not as shitty as you say it is because it's a video box I've seen since my teenage years and have always wondered when I'd get around to it.<bR><BR>I need to revisit Waxwork, but I did, of course, see it and its sequel as a kid. I'd love to double feature those sometime soon. It feels like the right time to revisit those flicks.
May 11, 2009, 5:29 p.m. CST
Sid Haig is supposed to be in some wolf movie coming out...sometime? Details? Anyone?
May 12, 2009, 10:05 a.m. CST
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