The Beast Must Die (1974)

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Released 15-Feb-2005

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Horror Main Menu Audio
Audio Commentary-Paul Annett (Director)
Interviews-Crew-Directing The Beast
Trailer-The Amicus Collection
Rating Rated PG
Year Of Production 1974
Running Time 88:58 (Case: 93)
RSDL / Flipper RSDL (61:26) Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 2,4 Directed By Paul Annett
Studio
Distributor
Amicus Productions
Umbrella Entertainment
Starring Calvin Lockhart
Peter Cushing
Marlene Clark
Anton Diffring
Charles Gray
Ciaran Madden
Tom Chadbon
Michael Gambon
Sam Mansary
Andrew Lodge
Eric Carte
Carl Bohen
Case PUSH-1 (Opaque)
RPI $19.95 Music Douglas Gamley


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame Full Frame English Dolby Digital 2.0 (448Kb/s)
English Audio Commentary Dolby Digital 2.0 (224Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 1.29:1
16x9 Enhancement No
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 1.66:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures Yes
Subtitles None Smoking Yes
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis

    A millionaire invites a group of disparate individuals to his estate in Scotland, where he reveals that one of them is a werewolf whom he is going to uncover and kill. His estate has been equipped with the latest surveillance equipment, plus wolf bane (in a pot labelled "wolf bane") and silver candlesticks of course. The full moon is tonight, and the beast must die! Of course, the beast is going to take a few of the guests with him/her.

    This is a very silly adaptation of the James Blish novella There Shall Be No Darkness, and represents the last horror film made by Amicus in which co-founder Milton Subotsky was involved. It was one of three films Amicus made simultaneously at Shepparton Studios and was helmed by TV veteran Paul Annett. The result is a horror film without any shocks that looks like a TV movie. Well, there is one shock, but it has nothing to do with the werewolf.

    The plot of this film has more gaping holes than the throats of the werewolf's victims. Why these people agreed to come to the remote Scottish estate in the first place is one, and why the millionaire big-game hunter ventures out at night without any weapons is another. The way in which everybody immediately accepts that there is a werewolf amongst them is a third.

    Assembled for this evening's entertainment are a motley assortment of actors. Bahamian Calvin Lockhart, who had appeared in some American blaxploitation flicks, is the determined millionaire. His performance is a little weak - the producers might have done much better with a more charismatic lead actor - but there is a novelty value in having a black actor in a leading role in a British horror opus. His wife is played by American actress Marlene Clark, whom Lockhart apparently insisted be cast in the role so that he had someone familiar to work with. A pity, as she is mostly awful. A solid cast of British actors are the suspects: Peter Cushing sports an unusual Swedish accent as the werewolf expert Lundstrom, while Charles Gray has little to do but spout pithy and cutting remarks as a UN delegate (of all things). Michael Gambon plays a Polish pianist who looks more upset by the circumstances he finds himself in than Adrien Brody did in The Pianist. Perhaps he was wishing that he had not been talked into appearing. Anton Diffring gets a brief run as a security expert before he runs afoul of the beast.

    The werewolf is played by a dog dressed up in furs rather than a man dressed up in furs. Unfortunately the dog they chose was too friendly, and spends much of his screen time with his tongue hanging out. There are a few effective moments with the werewolf being tracked through the estate by helicopter. Otherwise the film is very undistinguished, with some laughable dialogue and far too little suspense. There's also the "werewolf break", inserted by Subotsky without Annett's prior knowledge. Towards the end of the film there is a pause, wherein the sepulchral tones of Valentine Dyall invite the audience to guess who the werewolf is, while an on-screen clock counts down. This is the sort of gimmickry normally associated with William Castle, and really adds nothing to the final product.

    This is the last chronologically of the six films in the Amicus Collection box set, and at the time of writing it is not available separately.

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Transfer Quality

Video

    This transfer is in an aspect ratio of 1.29:1 and is not 16x9 enhanced. Theatrically the film was shown at 1.66:1. According to one review this transfer is an open-matte version of the original, so while the original framing is lost no visual information is missing.

    This is a disappointing transfer in several respects. It looks like it may have come from an analogue source, as it looks slightly less sharp than the original material might have been. Not that it isn't sharp and detailed much of the time, it just has that video master look to it. The transfer is reasonably bright, and colours look less vivid than they should be. Flesh tones are a little on the red side. Blacks are not solid, with some low level noise evident and little in the way of shadow detail.

    The transfer to DVD has some problems. There is an annoying tendency for the image to shake, and often it seems to squeeze slightly as though the picture is warped. It is as if the film was not entirely flat or taut when passed through the telecine machine, though this is just a guess on my part. There is some minor edge enhancement, but a lot of film artefacts. There are white flecks, dirt, splice marks, reel change markings and so on. This looks very much like a TV print.

    No subtitles are provided. The film comes on an RSDL-formatted disc, with the layer change placed at 61:26 at a cut. I did not find it disruptive.

Video Ratings Summary
Sharpness
Shadow Detail
Colour
Grain/Pixelization
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts
Overall

Audio

    The sole audio track is Dolby Digital 2.0 mono.

    This is a disappointing soundtrack. Dialogue is clear, but the audio is strident, with the upper frequencies sounding distorted, especially in louder passages. There are occasional crackles and some sibilance.

    Douglas Gamley contributed the music score. The opening music sounds as though it was inspired by the theme to Shaft, and there is a very 1970s brassy feel to it. Not the finest hour of British film music, but it does not sound as generic as Gamley's other work in this set.

Audio Ratings Summary
Dialogue
Audio Sync
Clicks/Pops/Dropouts
Surround Channel Use
Subwoofer
Overall

Extras

Main Menu Audio

    The main menu features some of the soundtrack music.

Audio Commentary-Paul Annett (Director)

    Jonathon Sothcott moderates this interview with the director of the film. While this isn't the best commentary in this set, it is not uninteresting. Annett has a higher opinion of the film than most critics (of course), and points out the film's strengths, mainly technical ones, with enthusiasm. Sothcott adds some pertinent background and there are few dead spots in the commentary.

Directing the Beast: Interview with Director Paul Annett (13:00)

    This is mainly excerpts from the film interspersed with the reminiscences of the director. He makes a pleasing screen presence and this interview seems to be over quite quickly. It is in 1.78:1 and is 16x9 enhanced.

Trailer-The Amicus Collection (3:28)

    Trailers for The City of the Dead, The Beast Must Die and And Now The Screaming Starts. The first two are letterboxed and look quite poor, especially the second, while the last is 16x9 enhanced and looks a lot better in comparison. These same trailers seem to be on every one of the discs in this set.

Censorship

    There is censorship information available for this title. Click here to read it (a new window will open). WARNING: Often these entries contain MAJOR plot spoilers.

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

    The Region 4 is nearly identical to the UK Region 2 release, which likewise is available as part of a set called The Amicus Collection but not separately. The Region 2 set has only the five films, omitting The City of the Dead.

    The major difference is in the audio section, with the Region 2 having two surround mixes, in DTS 5.1 and Dolby Digital 5.1, as well as the authentic monaural soundtrack. The Region 2 also has some additional extras, being a TV spot, a photo gallery, some production notes and cast biographies.

    The US Region 1 release is in 1.66:1 but is not 16x9 enhanced. It has no extras. The transfer is reported to be not very good.

    There appears to be no substantial difference between the Region 2 and Region 4 editions of this film, but as neither are available separately you would need to purchase the box set, and the Region 4 has the edge as it contains an extra film.

Summary

    A ludicrous werewolf story, which is never boring but delivers no real meat to chew on.

    The video quality and audio quality are poor.

    There are more extras than the film deserves.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Philip Sawyer (Bio available.)
Tuesday, April 05, 2005
Review Equipment
DVDPioneer DV-S733A, using Component output
DisplaySony 86CM Trinitron Wega KVHR36M31. Calibrated with Ultimate DVD Platinum. This display device is 16x9 capable.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to DVD player, Dolby Digital, dts and DVD-Audio. Calibrated with Ultimate DVD Platinum.
AmplificationSony TA-DA9000ES
SpeakersMain: Tannoy Revolution R3; Centre: Tannoy Sensys DCC; Rear: Richter Harlequin; Subwoofer: JBL SUB175

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