Hooptober 9.0 – The Beast Must Die (1974)

Being Film #17 for Hooptober 2022

I’m not going to lie to you: The Beast Must Die is not a great movie. In fact, it’s a pretty bad movie, despite featuring all-around badass Peter Cushing as Guy Who Explains Everything About Werewolves and Michael Gambon as Young Swinging Dumbledore. But I’d argue it’s a fun movie, taking elements from Agatha Christie-ish whodunits and injecting a werewolf into the mix. Plus it mixes in weird nods to The Most Dangerous Game and a movie gimmick worthy of William Castle, so despite its terribleness, I had fun with it. Plus it weirdly predicts One Night Ultimate Werewolf, which in full disclosure is a party game I happen to love, so take this review with a grain of salt.

THE QUICK SUMMARY: Tom Newcliffe is a very rich man. So rich that he sets up his entire estate with the latest in surveillance technology for one purpose: to catch and destroy a werewolf. To do that, he’s invited all the suspects to his house for the weekend…the weekend of the full moon. Who is the beast? is it the young bohemian artist? The concert pianist, or his lovely girlfriend? The disgraced diplomat or even the learned archeologist? It doesn’t matter, because the trick of the film is YOU ARE THE DETECTIVE, and you’ll have your chance to solve the mystery during…”THE WEREWOLF BREAK”!

Full disclosure. I did not solve the mystery.

I’m not sure if there is enough to solve it – there are a couple of red herrings that are obviously not the suspect, and the film leaves you with two candidates that really could be a toss up. If someone who sees the film can tell me what I missed and what sealed the deal, let me know in the comments.

It’s a novel gimmick, and despite reading that director Paul Annett hated the insertion of the title sequence announcing the gimmick and the werewolf break itself, I think he should be pleased it’s there, because otherwise there’s really nothing to recommend about the movie. The werewolf is really just a large black dog, and the “attacks” are laughable when they’re not disturbing in the “how did they do this and not incur the wrath of animal rights activists” kind of way. Transformations are limited to camera edit from person to said dog, with the exception of one scene where they literally just dissolve from a dog’s face to a person’s. Peter Cushing is fine, even though it’s obvious he’s going through the motions for a paycheck: he’s literally there to explain werewolves to the guests, and that’s it. As for Calvin Lockhart as Tom, I appreciated how much of an unapologetic dick he is throughout the movie, and I’ll give the team credit for the beginning twist of making The Beast Must Die look more like a James Bond action film than what it turns out to ultimately be.

But when people talk about enjoyable bad movies, this is for me is one of those. I’ll take the drive of a film like The Beast Must Die which is obviously a quickie but has more heart and ambition than a hundred Birdemic and Sharknado films. So I salute you, Tom Newcliffe. Sorry I got the werewolf wrong.

But to be fair, so did you.

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