Can You Guess Who The Werewolf Is? The Beast Must Die Blu-ray Review + Screenshots
And Then There Were Werewolves (18m 35s, HD)
Horror historian Troy Howarth presents this video essay documenting the history of the Agatha Christe story, from its racist first title all the way to the most recent adaptation. The Beast Must Die is talked about a lot. I like Howarth’s commentary tracks for various Argento blu-rays and he brings that same enthusiasm to this essay. This is the best feature on the disc, but that is pretty high regard because all of the features here are great.
Audio Commentary with director Paul Annett
This track is moderated by Jonathan Sothcott and is great. Casting, filming, anecdotes, and working for Amicus are all discussed. The track moves very smoothly and is never boring. In fact, the track moves so smoothly that I didn’t even realize that the track was over, but the two were still talking.
Directing the Beast (12m 58s, Upconverted SD)
This interview with director Paul Annett is really good, but suffers from overlapping stories with the commentary track. Still, if you do not have the time to sit through the commentary, this interview will make up for it.
Theatrical Trailer (1m, HD, 1.33:1)
The Beast Must Die is part of the Amicus Collection from Severin Films. Unlike Asylum and Now The Screaming Starts, The Beast Must Die is exclusive to this set and will not be released on its own.
The disc is REGION FREE
Alright, here we are, talking about how well, or not, the film looks. Before I do, I am going to preface the talk with this:
During an interview on the podcast Shockwaves, David Gregory of Severin talks about the Amicus box set. He brings up something that I don’t think that many caught: the film elements have been lost. That means that they had to find something else that they could use. Sometimes that is how things are.
Now, knowing that the film elements were lost and that Severin used some type of print that probably traveled around the country and has a ton of damage to it, is the transfer that bad?
Yes and no.
The picture is pretty bad, but it is watchable. Almost everything seems a off here, but there are reasons for that. Colors don’t look right all the time, blacks tend to have a blue hue to them, focus goes in and out, the image looks a bit too bright, and the grain looks more like noise and less like grain. There are also a series of small white dots that are constantly on the left side fo the frame, something that should have been cropped out. The white dots are not that big of a deal. They are small enough that they don’t over take the picture, but they shouldn’t be there in the first place.
I am not going to give the picture here a passing grade. It is too bad to pass, but isn’t as bad as many are saying. It is bad, but it is something that is beyond our or Severin’s control. They released the best version of The Beast Must Die that they, or any other company, could. Some are saying that is no better than a dvd version of the film and I have to say that there is a high definition look to it. This could be why Severin is not releasing the film outside of the box set, but who knows.
The English DTS-HD MA track is pretty good. The film doesn’t have a lot going on in terms of action or scares, so the focus is mainly dialogue and the score, both of which come through quite well.
Tom Newcliffe, a rich businessman and expert hunter summons six guests to his huge country estate which he has rigged up with video cameras and a high-tech security system. He tells them and his surprised wife that they are all to stay over a weekend and that all of them will be kept on the estate during that weekend. For each guest, dead bodies have followed in their wake and the way that the dead have been murdered means that one of the guest is a werewolf and Tom has summoned his guests here to discover who it is and to hunt it down... The film has a clip at the beginning asking people in the audience to try to identify the werewolf and near the end there is a 30-second "Werewolf Break" for the audience to think over the evidence...
The Beast Must Die has a very fun premise that the film can’t quite live up to, but is still a fun film nonetheless.
The film is a version of Agatha Christe’s Ten Little Indians (or Then There Were None) and tells the story of a man who invites a group of people over to his house in order to out one of them as a werewolf. Once outed, the man is going to kill the werewolf because he can I guess.
The film goes full-on William Castle as we are told at the beginning of the film that we, the audience, will have a chance to decide, for ourselves and probably to get a quick discussion going in the theater, who the werewolf is. This is not a murder mystery, but a werewolf mystery. This would have been cool to be a part of back in the day as the filmgoing experience today is a far cry of what it used to be back then. I don’t think that a “Werewolf Break” would fly today, but it would be fun if they did do one. Sure, its a gimmick, but it adds a bit of fun into this already fun film.
The film gives us clues as to who the werewolf might be. I don’t really think that it was that easy to figure it, but the filmmakers might have because they put in pretty big red herring towards the end of the film that is there to throw off the audience, but I don’t think it is a smart as the filmmakers think it is.
The film presents us with not one, but two black actors, one being the rich man who gathers the others together at his mansion. This was during the time when Blaxploitation films were all the rage in the U.S. and so I am sure that it was a bit jarring for audiences in the states to see a black lead that wasn’t some sort of pimp, criminal, drug dealer, or sports star. The lead actor, Calvin Lockhart, plays a rich man who speaks in well defined English and is the powerhouse of the film. He is the one who gathers everyone, conducts investigations, and is treated like any of the other characters. The character never falls into the stereotypical failings like many black actors had to play in the U.S. He is also never referred to as (insert one of many racist terms for black people. I think that this was the most shocking to me, but I had to remember that the film was made in the U.K. and that didn’t really happen there. (I am sure that it did, but not to the extent that it happened in the U.S.)
Reading the back of the blu-ray case, I found out that The Beast Must Die was the last horror film that Amicus made. After this they would make a few fantasy/sci-fi films before closing their doors completely. This is a real shame as the Amicus films, at least the ones that I have seen, have been a lot of fun. The fact that the company couldn’t keep up with the changing tides is a sad thing.
The Beast Must Die is a fun film that would have been hailed as a classic had it been able to live up to its premise. The werewolf, too, is a bit underwhelming. I will not say anymore, but once you see it, you too will feel a bit cheated. That being said, the film works and should be better known than it is.
The blu-ray, from Severin Films, is good. There is much debate about the picture quality, and you can read my thoughts above, but remember: the negative for the film is lost. The sound is good. The special features, while not numerous, are fantastic. The commentary is an easy listen and the look back on the film is interesting as well. I would recommend the film to those who like mystery films and fans of the film.