Tuesday, October 14, 2008

The Beast Must Die

(1974) **1/2

This high camp mid-70s werewolf flick could have been a lot better than the end results, but it's still a fun cheesy piece of horror/mystery fluff. The premise is a fun mix of Agatha Christie and The Howling, with elements of Shaft thrown in. Yeah!

It's the story of a rich game hunter who wants to bag himself a werewolf, so he invites 6 guests to his country mansion, one of whom he's convinced is a werewolf, for reasons that aren't really clear. He's got the whole place wired, with cameras and mics spread throughout the surrounding woods, and the game is afoot!

One key element that heightens the fun here is that the movie begins with a weird voice over proclaiming that this is a mystery that YOU will solve. But it's not a murderer you're looking for, but a werewolf. So pay attention to the clues, "And watch for the werewolf break!" I was excited already...I couldn't wait for whatever a "werewolf break" was to arrive! Turns out that a werewolf break means a 30 second pause near the end of the movie--you know it's 30 seconds because they superimpose a stop watch on the screen while ticking through the possible suspects and telling you to guess now! It's totally ridiculous of course, as the clues, such as they were, were completely arbitrary and unhelpful. Apparently, this was something the producers tacked on post-production, against the director's wishes, which is hysterical. And awesome.

Other fun stuff include Peter Cushing as a werewolf expert with a funny accent, and werewolf that's really just a large dog. There's also fun campy dialogue like: "Well, if he's a werewolf, I admire his taste in flesh."

I also like the choice to use Calvin Lockhart (black British actor) in the lead role of the big game hunter. It gives this B-movie a subversive racial subtext, I think, that is foregrounded by an opening sequence involving him being hunted on his own grounds by a group of well armed Aryans. When the tables are turned, and he's hunting his white house guests as "beasts" I gotta think the director was having some fun with mid-70s racial imagery.

And there's a groovy soul soundtrack to boot!

So that's all the good stuff--unfortunately, like most B-movies, there's problems with pacing and budget and script that make it very hit or miss. Still, it's probably worth checking out for the werewolf break alone...


JPX said...

At first I thought that was a poster for the Honeymooners! After watching hundreds of movies over the years I concluded that horror movies sucked between approximately 1969-1974 (The Exorcist being a rare exception) for some reason. I can't explain why but that's just a bad time for horror movies. I have many horror-movie 50 packs and I've made it a policy to only watch movies during that timeframe if I'm desperate.

DCD said...

Ha! I think I'll just stick with your review LS. Seems better then the movie itself!

AC said...

i agree with dcd, i'll stay away from the movie, though i enjoyed your review.

btw, landshark, from which movie did you get your pets' names? dcd told me to ask. :)

Landshark said...

Well, let's see. There's Nigel, Viv, Saint, and Derek.

AC said...

spinal tap! awesome! :)

Octopunk said...

Another great review, Landshark. Your checklist of why B-movies are B is pretty on.