• The Beast In The Cellar (Severin Films) Blu-ray Review

    Released by: Severin Films
    Released on: November 29th, 2019.
    Director: James Kelley
    Cast: Beryl Reid, Flora Robson, John Hamill, Tessa Wyatt, T.P. McKenna, John Kelland
    Year: 1971
    Purchase From Severin Films

    The Beast In The Cellar – Movie Review:

    Produced by Tigon Films and released theatrically in 1971, The Beast In The Cellar introduces us to Ellie (Beryl Reid) and Joyce (Flora Robson) Ballantyne, two spinster sisters who share a home in the British countryside. They live alone together, neither having ever married or had children, but in as many ways as they are alike, they are also quite different. Ellie is a bit of a daydreamer, content to relive past glories while Joyce, the more dominant of the pair, is definitely more grounded. Aside from occasional visits from Nurse Sutherland (Tessa Wyatt), who checks in on Joyce occasionally, the sisters don’t have much of a social life.

    Ellie, however, is quite taken with Alan Marlow (John Hamill), a handsome soldier who stops by on occasion to visit the two ladies. When some of the men stationed at the nearby training camp that Alan calls home start to turn up dead, inspecting officer Detective Paddick (T.P. McKenna) ascertains that whatever it was that killed these men was not human. The Ballantyne Sisters get wind of what’s happening and start to wonder if the dark family secret that they’ve been hiding all these years – in their cellar, no less – might have something to do with the rash of murders in the area…

    Also known as Are You Dying, Young Man?, how much you get out of this one will depend quite heavily on how much you enjoy Reid and Robson’s performances. The story itself is rather predictable and deals in clichés, but the two female leads really are very good here. Their loneliness, Ellie’s in particular, seems quite believable and you wind up feeling a bit sorry for the pair. Reid in particular is quite sympathetic, while Robson plays her character as the stronger of the two, less needing of our sympathy than her co-star. Either way, they’re both do very good work in the picture and it’s their presence, more than anything else, that makes this one watchable enough.

    Supporting work is okay. Tessa Wyatt, a mainstay of British television in the seventies, is good enough as the nurse but isn’t given enough to do to really stand out. John Hamill, who appeared in No Blade Of Grass a year before starring in this picture, is decent enough as the solider. T.P. McKenna, of The Doctor And The Devils and Peckinpah’s seminal Straw Dogs, plays a cranky cop well enough, his is a part that suits his demeanor.

    The attack scenes are done fairly well, and the movie starts off with a nice bang in that regard, it gets a bit bloodier than you might expect a British horror picture from 1971 to get. There are some pacing issues here and there and it isn’t tough to figure out where this all headed and how it’s going to get there, but the movie holds our attention well enough. Not a classic, but definitely better than it’s less than stellar reputation would have you believe. The rural setting works very well here and the cinematography is always strong and frequently quite impressive.

    The Beast In The Cellar – Blu-ray Review:

    Severin Films brings The Beast In The Cellar to Blu-ray in an AVC encoded 1080p high definition transfer framed at 1.85.1 widescreen on a 50GB disc with the feature given just under 26GBs of space.

    The English language DTS-HD 2.0 Mono track is problem free and quite clean sounding. Dialogue is easy to understand and to follow and the levels are balanced well throughout. There aren’t any issues with hiss, distortion or sibilance to complain about. Optional subtitles are offered up in English only.

    As far as the extra features go, Tigon Tales Of Terror is a featurette with producer Troy Tenser, filmmakers Michael Armstrong and Piers Haggard, actor Ian Ogilvy, Tony Tenser and Christopher Neame that runs twenty-seven-minutes in length. It originated on the Anchor Bay UK Tigon boxed set that came out roughly fifteen years ago but it’s an interesting look back at the studio’s output with some good commentary from the interviewees and some nice archival material included.

    Composer In The Cellar interviews composer Tony Macauley for eleven-minutes. He speaks about his work on the film and offers up some thoughts on his process. Cutting The Beast gets editor Nick Napier-Bell in front of the camera for an eight-minute interview where he also speaks about cutting the picture. Both of these are a bit short but interesting to see and worthy inclusions.

    Rounding out the extras are the film's original theatrical trailer, menus and chapter selection.

    As this review was based on a test disc we can’t attest to any inserts or fancy packaging for this release.

    The Beast In The Cellar – The Final Word:

    The Beast In The Cellar is a decent enough picture made all the better by the two lead performances. Severin’s Blu-ray release looks quite nice and features some decent extra features as well. Not the best of Tigon’s output, but still very much worth seeing more for the acting than the horror.

    Click on the images below for full sized The Beast In The Cellar Blu-ray screen caps!