Thursday, July 9, 2020

shafted.

Realised t'other night that Mrs Unwell had never seen this classic.

Had to put her right obviously.

The Beast Must Die! (1974).
Dir: Paul Annett.
Cast: Calvin Lockhart, Marlene Clark, Charles Gray, Michael Gambon, Ciaran Madden, Tom Chadbon, Anton Diffring and Peter Cushing.


“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 your answer. Watch for the werewolf break.”



Welcome to the world of multi-millionaire, big game hunter, international playboy and pound shop John Shaft Tom Newcliffe (a very shouty Lockhart) who, it seems, likes nothing better than to spend his weekends clad in shiny black plastic suits and being chased around his country estate by a load of heavily armed muscly white guys in helicopters and Land-Rovers whilst sweating profusely as a camp Polish bloke named Pavel (Brit-cinema rentaNazi Diffring) captures it all on videotape.

Look if that's what he enjoys then who am I to judge?

There’s a legitimate reason for all this wannabe race-baiting tho' (other than to give the film an intriguing - if in this day and age slightly disturbing - credit sequence obviously) as Tom is actually busy testing his estates newly installed high-tech security system.

And why is that? I hear you ask.

Well it seems that he's invited a group of folk to spend the weekend with him - and his wife Caroline (Clark from Night of The Cobra Woman, Ganja & Hess, Slaughter and Billy Dee Williams marital bed) - to not only indulge in a wee bit of drinking, chatting and dining but also to find out which one of them is a werewolf.

Oh yes and then kill them.

No seriously.

You see, according to Tom in all his big game hunting adventures this is the one animal he's never hunted.

Which begs the question as to which ones he has.

Vampires?, sea monsters? the Yeti? Katy Hopkins?

We need to know.

"I wouldn't one one of them swimming up my arse!"

And who is this motley band of would be werewolves?

Well there's distinguished diplomat Sir Arthur Bennington (genre stalwart and lifelong bachelor Gray), problematic pianist Jan Gilmore and his ex-protege cum wife Davina (the legend that is Dame Michael of Gambon and Madden who I'm sure was in some other stuff) alongside the hairy handed artist and part-time cannibal Paul Foote (Doctor Who's Duggan himself Chadbon) and the eminent lycanthropy expert Prof. Dolph Lundgren (Cushing).

It seems that at some point or another each of the five has been somewhere where a bad murder has been committed.

By a werewolf.

Probably.

And with the whys and wherefores out of the way our merry band of might be murderers settle down to an insult filled dinner followed by a vaguely threatening game of pass the silver candlestick before retiring grumpily to bed as Pavel records their every move.

Imagine a really angry edition of Big Brother but with more Bri-Nylon.

"And for my next trick I will levitate this table without using my hands!"



Being quite a short film with a really bare-bones plot it's not long until the werewolf (played by a tie-dyed sheepdog) shows itself giving Tom ample opportunity to sweatily run around the woods - clad in a shiny plastic coat no less - randomly pointing a gun a trees whilst Pavel shouts random directions at him.

Little do the pair know tho' that the beast (who remember must die) is sneakily making its way to Pavel's office in order to kill him.

This turn of events understandably makes Tom even more obsessed with killing the creature much to his wife's chagrin and that night after dinner he forces the group to grab the candlestick (again) whilst waving a pot of Wolfs-bane around like a demented Morrissey tribute act.

Unfortunately none of this works because - as Prof. Lundgren helpfully points out, if the werewolf is fairly new to the whole transforming game they'll be able to hold on to their humanity a bit better than an old werewolf.

Or your dad after a drink.


Jacket.



It's during this plant-based outburst that Tom notices that Paul doesn't seem to be taking the situation as seriously as he should so our hero decides that this must be because he's a werewolf and not the fact that the whole premise is fucking ludicrous so to this end he decides to target the poor bloke with a barrage of insults and dirty looks.

Because sarcasm kills werewolves obviously.

And with that Paul heads of to bed, being careful to show his hairy back and arse to camera as he gets undressed.

Well it's another night and another full moon which means that we're about to experience some top quality day for night footage as Tom - this time in the BBC weather helicopter - flies around the English countryside randomly shooting at shadows before coming to land outside his greenhouse where it's been reported that a large dog is digging up the roses.

Bursting in all guns blazing Tom is surprised to find that the reported dog is, in fact, his actual pet dog, taken out for a nighttime poo by his Caroline.

The guffaws soon turn to screams tho' as out of nowhere (well from behind a bush) the werewolf appears, first killing the helicopter pilot before savaging Tom's pet pooch.

And with that they all skulk back to the house only to find poor Arthur Bennington dead in his bed and Paul missing.

Hmmmm.

Don't worry too much tho' he soon turns up saying he missed the drama as he was having a massive poo.

Which is fair enough.

Tim Martin farted....and it smells of yeast.

With the surviving guests all in one place and the movie hurtling drunkenly toward it's conclusion there's only one thing for it.

No not a brilliantly choreographed action sequence but a totally unexpected appearance from a childs version of the Countdown clock to herald the 'Werewolf Break' - a chance for viewers to weigh up the evidence given so far (which is a bit rich as let's be honest, there hasn't actually been any) and guess who the beast - that must die obviously - is.





And with that out of the way it's back to the film good and proper, where after a swift drink Tom pulls out a box of silver bullets (no idea where from as his trousers are really tight) and orders each of the guests - and his wife - to pop one in their mouth.

You can imagine his surprise then when the only person affected by the silver is his wife Caroline who almost immediately starts to sprout hair and fangs.

As the group look on in horror (OK mild disbelief) the crew quickly replace her with a dog who - on cue - leaps at Tom leaving him no choice other than shoot her/it (pronouns are important according to the kids) in the face.

This turn of events leaves Tom understandably confused so it's left to good old Lundgren to explain that Caroline must have gotten infected whilst taking care of her dog's wounds after the werewolf attack in the greenhouse, noting that she had a cut on her hand from earlier that evening.

Seems legit.

With dawn fast approaching and the remaining guests accounted for it's a race against time for Tom to find the beast and kill it.....

Because the beast must die.

Obviously.




A rare break from the portmanteau horror genre from the mighty Amicus, The Beast Must Die mixes sub-Avengers plotting with a very British take on Blaxploitation all hastily wrapped in the plot of "The Most Dangerous Game" (which was first filmed in 1932 so by this point was starting to creak a wee bit) and handed to a director whose claim to fame seemed to be bringing a variety of TV shows in under budget and on time which all in all may be seen as a recipe for if not disaster then at least a bit of a turgid mess.

Scarily tho' despite all of this (or maybe because of it) The Beast Must Die is actually pretty enjoyable for something that is to all intents and purposes utter cringe-inducing shite and mainly that's due to the talent on screen.

I mean anyone that can convincingly look terrified as the directors sheep dog dyed black and wearing a comedy ruff  prances about with its tongue out deserves at least a little respect.

And yes I'm looking at you Tom Chadbon.


"Sausages"


Saying that tho' everyone else is pretty impressive too, it's just a pity that after getting together a cast that includes the likes of Charles Gray, Michael Gambon, Anton Diffring and Peter Cushing the writer/director decided to do fuck all with them except have them sitting around drinking wine in a collection of really horrible trousers.

And all while our heroic 'lead' Calvin Lockhart stands around shouting dressed in an approximation (if your nan was involved in the costumes) of what Shaft would wear had he been born in West Bromwich.

Talking of Shaft, if you've ever wondered what that classic movie would sound like if scored by a Tubby Hayes tribute band more used to working on 70s fag adverts then you're in luck.



No disrespect to Douglas Gamley - who scored shedloads of Amicus productions with great success, I mean his score for From Beyond the Grave is bloody phenomenal - but in this case it just sounds like it's trying way too hard, a wee bit like a musical version of your uncle Peter trying to pull that bridesmaid at your cousins wedding.


"Quick! Here comes Uncle Peter!"


Damning with faint praise I reckon the best thing you can say about The Beast Must Die is somewhere in that there's a really great grindhouse style actioner in there somewhere desperate to get out.

A wee bit like the beast itself.


2 comments:

Peteski said...

Watching now, thanks?

Ashton Lamont said...

Hope you enjoy it! :)