Saturday, 24 October 2009



I suppose I should be a bigger fan of British horror movies of the 70s. The 70s were, I'm increasingly convinced, a Golden Age for cinema in general; I'm British and I like my horror movies. And it's fair to say I do like them very much when they're at their best: there's little to beat Peter Cushing and Sir Christopher Lee doing their stuff in a lightning storm while surrounded by heaving bosoms and accompanied by a doom-laden orchestral score. The movies may not be actually scary more than thirty years after they were made, but they're now strangely comfortable.

The Beast Must Die is an Amicus film from 1974 and tells one story, unlike the compendiums (compendia?) they tended to specialise in. Calvin Lockhart assembles a disparate group of shady individuals for a weekend party at his country mansion, in the knowledge that one of them is a werewolf. It's an Agatha Christie movie with hair. As befits both the Agatha Christie adaptation and the British horror compendium, there's a great cast of big names either dying off early or being revealed as the killer all along - including Charles Gray, a young Michael Gambon, Anton Diffring, and the mighty Peter Cushing who gets saddled with a hilarious accent that wanders its way across half of mainland Europe (including Sweden, Germany, and maybe a bit of Ireland). Towards the end it has the Werewolf Break where the movie pauses and the dark velvet voice of Valentine Dyall asks You The Viewer if you've figured out the identity of the killer, as if it's Britain's Got Werewolves and we're supposed to ring a premium-rate phone line to cast a vote.

Sadly, much of The Beast Must Die is incredibly dull and talky and there's just not enough going on even at just 88 minutes. Maybe if they'd used this as a wraparound for a quartet of stories about the guest stars' possible past encounters with werewolves it might have held together better but as it stands it's not a success. It's always good to see these actors, but they need more to do than they have here.


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