• The Beast Must Die (Severin Films) Blu-ray Review



    The Beast Must Die (Severin Films) Blu-ray Review
    Released by: Severin Films
    Released on: June 26th, 2020.
    Director: Paul Annett
    Cast: Calvin Lockhart, Marlene Clark, Charles Gray, Anton Diffring, Peter Cushing
    Year: 1974
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    The Movie:

    What do you get when you mix Agatha Christie’s 10 Little Indians with Peter Cushing, the criminologist from The Rocky Horror Picture Show, and bad werewolf effects? Why, Amicus Studios’ The Beast Must Die of course!

    “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 you answer.”

    When the film begins we see a man named Tom Newcliffe (Calvin Lockhart) running through the woods testing out his new high tech security system. Why has he had this installed? Because he takes hunting very seriously and intends to make sure he runs into no snags catching his latest prey, a werewolf! Good thing he’s got his trusty friend Pavel (Anton Diffring) to watch over all the surveillance cameras for him – these things cover the entire width of his property inside and out.

    But before he can start the hunt, he’s got to figure out who exactly is the werewolf. He’s narrowed it down to six people, seven if you include his lovely wife Caroline (Marlene Clark of Beware The Blob!): a Scandinavian occult expert named Dr. Lundgren (Peter Cushing, a man who needs no introduction around here), a wealthy and shifty heavy set dude named Arthur Bennington (Charles Gray), the lovely Davina Gilmore (Ciaran Madden), a chap named Paul Foote (Tom Chadbon) or, finally, Jan Jarmokowski (Michael Gambon). In order to weed out who the real werewolf is, Newcliffe has them all over to his home for a dinner party.

    Of course, as the evening progresses, someone invariably does shape shift and soon a werewolf (or at least a really big fuzzy dog) is on the loose killing off the odd piece of hired help here and there. Will Newcliffe be able to figure out who is the culprit before it’s too late or will he himself wind up a midnight snack for a hungry lycanthropic beast?

    Far less of a horror movie and much more of a traditional ‘who dunnit’ in the guise of a ‘who issit,’ The Beast Must Die is good fun even if it’s hardly a good movie. The acting is a little on the hammy side in spots, Lockhart in particular giving an oddly ‘too cool’ performance and Cushing struggling with his Scandinavian character’s accent at times. The effects, what little there are, mostly consist of a big shaggy dog mauling people in place of an actual werewolf, which adds some unintentionally funny moments to the movie that are almost immediately hit over the head with some grisly after effects shots.

    The most ridiculous part of the movie is the gimmick aspect that the producers forced on the film. An opening narration and text shot tells us that the movie we’re about to watch is a mystery in which we, the audience go to try and figure out who the werewolf is. It further advises us to watch out for the break in which we can reveal our answers. Sure enough, towards the end of the film that same narrator pops back up on the soundtrack and asks us to take a guess, giving us thirty ticking seconds in which a clock moves over some stills of the suspects to make our guess. Silly stuff, but a whole lot of fun.

    Video/Audio/Extras:

    The Beast Must Die comes back to Blu-ray from Severin Films, who previously released the film as part of their Amicus Films Collection with a transfer taken from sub-par elements. This reissue is taken from a "superior 35mm pre-print element" recently found in France and scanned in 4k. Presented in AVC encoded 1080p high definition, the movie is framed at 1.66.1 widescreen. Given just over 19Gbs of space on the 25GB disc, this looks very nice and presents a considerable improvement, picture quality wise, over the earlier release. The elements used were clearly in much better shape and we get significantly stronger detail, depth and texture in pretty much every frame. Colors look very nice and there’s virtually no print damage here at all. The image is free of any noticeable noise reduction or edge enhancement problems, and while it might look a tad dark the difference in quality is very, very noticeable.

    The English language 24-bit DTS-HD Mono track, which comes with optional English subtitles, sounds quite nice, especially that funk track that opens the film, which demonstrates quite a bit of depth. Dialogue is always clean and clear and the track is nicely balanced. There are no audible issues with any hiss or distortion to note. No problems here at all.

    There are two extras that are included on this disc that weren’t on the first Severin release. The first of these is an audio interview excerpt of Milton Subotsky on The Beast Must Die where he’s interviewed by Philip Nutman. This was recorded in in 1985 and it allows Subotsky to talk for just under seven-minutes about how the film about the story that the film was based on and how the book is better than the film. He talks about the scripting of the picture, what worked and what didn't, casting a black male lead in the film without bringing race into the picture, how he liked the cast but not the direction, the chase scene featured in the film and how he felt that the director didn't care at all about what wound up on the screen.

    The second is an audio interview with Producer Max J Rosenberg, who is interviewed by Jonathan Sothcott. Running forty-seven-minutes and taken from recordings that were to be used in a book that Sothcott wrote on Amicus, this interview covers a lot of ground such as how he met Milton Subotsky and how they came to work together, the studio's capital structure and how they financed their films, how and why they concentrated on genre pictures, how Milton never met with executives while working on pictures, working on City Of The Living Dead, non-genre pictures like It's Trad, Dad! and Just For Fun, how a certain someone called Subotsky 'a cunt' on the set of The Deadly Bees, his thoughts on The Skull and his memories of working on that picture, putting together The Birthday Party, working on Scream And Scream Again, how Subotsky started principal production on And Now The Screaming Starts while he was on vacation which led to trouble, working with Sam Arkoff and lots, lots more.

    The main archival supplements both involve director Paul Annett, and both have been ported over from the aforementioned Anchor Bay UK DVD release. The first is the commentary track in which he explains a lot of trivia behind the shoot, such as how the cast was assembled, how Amicus put the project together and what it was like working with the ensemble assembled for the production. He speaks kindly of pretty much everyone involved in the film and does a good job of basically giving the listener a crash course history lesson in his work at Amicus Studios.

    The second supplement to involve Annett is a featurette entitled Directing The Beast. This is a great little documentary that covers how the project came to be, how Michael Winder adopted James Blish’s original story into a screen play, how Lockhart was cast in the lead and more. Annett is very down to Earth about the movie, not taking himself too seriously as he tells us some fun stories about his interaction with the two studio heads who bankrolled all of this.

    Carried over from the Amicus set that Severin previously released is And Then There Were Werewolves, an audio essay by Troy Howarth that clocks in at just over eighteen minutes. Here Howarth speaks about the history of the film overtop a selection of images from the film, talking up the influence of Agatha Christie and its cinematic legacy, British werewolf films and this picture’s place in that category, how Amicus came to make this film in the first place, the James Blish story that the script was based on and the film’s Blaxploitation elements.

    We also get a theatrical trailer for the feature (with some fun optional commentary from Kim Newman and David Flint, which is definitely worth listening to), menus and chapter selection. A Severin Films catalogue is also included inside the black Blu-ray case.

    The Final Word:

    The Beast Must Die is goofy but it’s also pretty fun. Lockhart and Cushing are both really good here and despite the movie’s sometimes very obvious shortcomings, there’s plenty of entertainment value to be had here. Severin Film’s new reissue improves considerably over the past release with a much nicer presentation and a few new extra features as well.

    Click on the images below for full sized Blu-ray screen caps!


















































    Comments 1 Comment
    1. Jason C's Avatar
      Jason C -
      Watched the release from the boxset last night. Pleasantly surprised how fun this film is. The creature effects late are kinda lame, but I really dug the plot and the over-the-top performances. I especially dug Calvin Lockhart and his intensity. A little bit of sleaze and this could have been a big-time favorite. The transfer is terrible but I found it watchable. Not sure if I'll upgrade.