The Beast Must Die (1974)

December 5, 2008 § Leave a comment

“This film is a detective story — in which you are the detective.

The question is not “Who is the murderer?” — but “Who is the werewolf?”

After all the clues have been shown — you will get a chance to give your answer.

Watch for the werewolf break.”

With a hilariously funky seventies soundtrack, The Beast Must Die manages to be pretty good fun, even if low budget and extremely cheesy fun.  And yes, this is a film that stops near the end to give you thirty seconds to think about who might be the werewolf.  The premise is pretty simple: a wealthy, egocentric man invites about six people to his country estate (wired for surveillance) to dine and hang around, knowing that when the werewolf transforms, he can hunt it.  So, um, yeah that’s the plot.

I watched this mainly for Peter Cushing, who was reintroduced to audiences in the original Star Wars (1977) but had a long career before that as one of a handful of English actors (along with Christopher Lee) who elevated Hammer horror productions such as Horror of Dracula (1958)  Curse of Frankenstein (1957) or The Mummy (1959), all remakes of the classic films of the thirties but with a level of gore that jolted audiences in the late fifties. Aside from playing characters like Van Helsing and Dr. Frankenstein (with Lee as Dracula, Frankenstein and the Mummy) he was even Sherlock Holmes in a pretty decent Hound of the Baskervilles (1959), and Doctor Who in a couple of colourful spin-off films while the TV series was terribly popular.  In the sixties, Lee and Cushing starred in a pile of Dracula and Frankenstein sequels, with various levels of quality, but it’s the originals from the late fifties that stand out in my mind as the kind of classy yet shocking horror film that just isn’t made any more.

Cushing doesn’t have a lot of screen time in this, but does manage to be as classy as possible while putting a bullet in his mouth — a supposedly silver one — to prove he isn’t a werewolf.  Still, even if Cushing fans are disappointed by this one, it’s a fun, bizarre little film crying out to be remade with a better budget, and probably without the “werewolf break.”

There’s an impressive Peter Cushing tribute here, with great quotes from Cushing and Lee.

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