Made by the UK production company Amicus, a second-rate competitor/imitator of Hammer Films, The Beast Must Die is a truly strange amalgam of pulpy story elements—it’s a monster movie presented in the narrative mode of an Agatha Christie tale, and it features both blaxploitation flourishes and a ridiculous gimmick straight out of the William Castle playbook. Plus, the whole thing’s slathered with that noxious brand of pseudo-funk music that appeared in the worst UK horror pictures of the period, representing a failed attempt to make decidedly un-hip movies sound hip. To say that The Beast Must Die tries to be everything to everyone is an understatement.
Bahamanian actor Calvin Lockhart stars as Tom, the owner of a gigantic country estate in the UK, which he’s rigged with an elaborate network of hidden cameras and microphones. Turns out Tom is a big-game hunter preparing for his most dangerous prey yet—a werewolf. Toward that end, he recruits six acquaintances for a weekend visit, knowing that one of them is the lycanthrope. (Never mind the unanswerable logic questions raised by his convenient possession of this knowledge.) Upon their arrival, Tom tells his guests that over the next three nights, when the moon is full, he will identify and kill the werewolf. During hunting scenes, Tom, who is black, gets duded up like he’s auditioning for a sequel to Shaft (1971), wearing a tight leather jumpsuit and a gun belt while he races through the woods aided, via radio, by his security technician, Pavel (Anton Diffing). During non-hunting scenes, Tom struts around dinner tables and smoking rooms repeatedly announcing, with absurd theatricality, “One of you—is a werewolf!”
The actors playing Tom’s guests, including respectable UK performers Peter Cushing, Michael Gambon, and Charles Gray, try not to embarrass themselves when delivering the movie’s goofy dialogue. Alas, any hope of retaining dignity disappears when the picture reaches the “Werewolf Break,” a 30-second onscreen countdown giving viewers one last chance to ID the monster’s human guise. The Beast Must Die is outrageously stupid, but it boasts solid production values and a quick pace, while lovely costars Marlene Clark and Ciaran Madden provide eye candy by wearing low-cut dinner gowns in most of their scenes. And, to be fair, a couple of the werewolf attacks generate half-decent jolts, so it would be ungallant to deny that The Beast Must Die generates at least a few moments of cartoonish entertainment. Overall, though, what holds the attention here is the (morbid) curiosity factor of watching a laughably misguided film self-immolate.
The Beast Must Die: FUNKY