Tuesday, February 9, 2016

"The Beast Must Die " (1974) d/ Paul Annett

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Eleven years after British horror rival Hammer Studios produced their only werewolf movie, Curse of the Werewolf, Amicus Studios put out their own in tonight's review, though it's less a horror film than a groovily light seventies whodunit with a Castle-esque gimmick thrown in at the outset and three quarter mark for nostalgic effect. Utilizing Calvin Lockhart instead of originally slated  Robert "Count Yorga" Quarry in the lead role gives the film a dynamite blaxploitative flavor and elevates the production from the typical fear fodder it might have otherwise become. Along for the ride are Peter Cushing, Anton Diffring, Charles Gray, and Marlene Clark. Let's get into it.

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"Beyonce start the halftime show without me?", wonders Newcliffe (Calvin Lockhart).
After being informed of an impending "werewolf break" (I shouldn't have to tell you that's a warning I can get behind),  we meet independently wealthy big game hunter Newcliffe (Calvin Lockhart) as he's being chased over every inch of his extensive property by armed men, who are aided by electronic surveillance/security he's only recently had installed, as evidenced by the video cameras robotically panning from the trees and microphones jutting from the earth below. His progress is being tracked by a man named Pavel (Anton Diffring), who questions the necessity of such equipment in the first place, as do his eight house guests, which include the likes of Dr. Lundgren (Peter Cushing), a self-proclaimed expert on lycanthropy, a pompous ass named Pennington (Charles Gray), a pianist named Jarmokowski (Michael Gambon) and his current piece of army candy, Davina (Ciarron Madden), a libertine named Foote (Tom Chadbon) who's previously tasted human flesh on a whimsy, and let's not exclude Tom's own sultry wife, Caroline (Marlene Clark). Over dinner, he divulges the reasoning behind the equipment, and why he's gathered them there in the first place. You see, one of these cats is a werewolf, the one beast Tom hasn't had the pleasure of hunting down and killing,  as of yet.

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"Like, groovy disguise, Scoob! Come down from there, and we can, like,  make some tasty sandwiches before that spooky pterodactyl ghost comes back."
 We're given the full moon's glorious arrival, signalling moving Radio Shack-esque blips on a dated grid map the likes of which I haven't seen since little boys in polyester checked slacks sunk each other's Battleships, and it's not long before Tom is running around in the day-for-night with a high powered rifle, looking for the optimum shot at the ferocious beast. And it's even sooner that he's got his guests all taking turns holding a solid silver candle holder, their inability to do so surely signifying werewolfery. Lundgren introduces some fake lycanthropic science involving wolf's bane pollen with a poker face, while Pavel gets himself chewed up and spit out by the titular beast, who doesn't forget to destroy all of Tom's high tech equipment, in the process. With no leg up from his groovy gadgetry, Newcliffe naturally points more than one accusatory finger at each of his guests, with all the zeal and twice the paranoia of the Twilight Zone's "The Monsters Are Due on Maple Street" episode. Discovery of the werewolf's secret identity is given to you, the viewer, and late in the final reel, the aforementioned "Werewolf Break" occurs, providing you with the opportunity to solve the murderous mystery before you. I won't do your detective work for you here, either, as you'll have to score a copy to handle it yourselves. You'll be glad you did.

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Seinen hals ist verwundet und sein auge ist weg.
Despite the film's lo-fi werewolf being little more than a common German Shepard with some extra fur glued on, I applaud the film's producers for envisioning a four-legged beast a la/ Landis' An American Werewolf in London (1981), instead of the usual Wile E. Coyote two-legged standard we've come to expect. It's an appreciated change of pace, despite the obvious budgetary restrictions. It's that same change of pace that makes this one so refreshing and entertaining for just about anybody who'd give it a look, and thus, well worthy of the solid three Wops I've gotta bestow upon it here. Recommended, for sure.

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This is just his Facebook profile pic, he's really a Jack Russell terrier.
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