The Beast Must Die – Blu-Ray Review

This British horror film was released by Amicus in the early 1970s. It’s basically an Agatha Christie-type plot with a bit of a supernatural twist involving a werewolf. They’re trying to figure out who the werewolf is—there isn’t much more to it than that.

The film arrived in the wake of the first couple Blaxploitation hits e.g. Sweet Sweetback’s Badasssss Song, so the filmmakers kind of jumped on that bandwagon and added a Black lead, Calvin Lockhart. They probably had the idea that they could sell it in the US as some kind of werewolf Blaxploitation film that would go on a double bill under the obvious name Black Werewolf, although it’s not that at all.

If you’re big on Hammer/Amicus films, you will probably like it, I personally find them quite hit and miss—sometimes I like them, sometimes not; most of the time I’m somewhere in the middle. Hammer had a bit more variety, from noirs to adventure and pirate movies. But it’s perfectly fine, and there’s a ‘werewolf break’ added, a total William Castle knock-off thing where the movie stops and you have to try to figure out who it is. It’s really gimmicky, as is the whole film. (The Black Werewolf version didn’t include the ‘werewolf break’).

It has an interesting supporting cast that includes a very young Michael Gambon, and of course Peter Cushing has a fun role in it.

There’s an amusing wannabe sub-Shaft soundtrack, and it’s based on a short story by James Blish, who was usually a hard science fiction writer but since he was dabbling in the pulps he did sometimes write horror. Blish was also one of the first critics writing about the science fiction genre, and started one of the very first science fiction fan groups in the 1920s. That makes him an important figure in science fiction, although he’s not that well remembered for his writing outside of a couple of novels that are well-liked by space-opera fans.

If you’re into these kinds of movies (and for me they need to be really exceptional), you’ll enjoy it.

The disc includes a high-def transfer and the cut down Super-8 version, and is packed with extras, including an audio commentary from the director, Paul Arnett, and author Jonathan Sothcott; a 48-minute interview with producer Max J. Rosenberg by Sothcott; British Entertainment History Project interviews with cinematographer Jack Hildyard and with editor Peter Tanner; a new appreciation/introduction from horror author Stephen Laws; and an archival interview with Annett. On top of that, there’s an image gallery, original theatrical trailer, a trailer commentary with Kim Newman and David Flint, and in the limited edition, a 40-page booklet with an essay by Neil Young, the original Blish short story, archival writing on the film, a selection of contemporary criticism, and more.


Ian Schultz

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