The Beast Must Die


Reviewed by: Jennie Kermode

The Beast Must Die
"A real oddity, one of those curiosities which become landmarks in cinematic history."

The 1970s produced a lot of great horror movies, but let’s face it, all those heaving bosoms and creepy castles begin to blur into one another after a while. Watch The Beast Must Die just once, however, and you will never forget it. Is that because it’s brilliant? Not really, but it’s a real oddity, one of those curiosities which become landmarks in cinematic history.

Part horror, part old fashioned whodunnit, the story revolves around eccentric millionaire Tom (Calvin Lockhart) and his wife Caroline (Marlene Clark), who invite a group of people to stay at their stately home in the English countryside and proceed to disclose their suspicion that one member of the group is a werewolf. Who could it be? Is it pianist Jan (Michael Gambon) or the young student he married, Davina (Ciaran Madden)? Could it be former diplomat Arthur (Charles Gray), now mired in scandal? How about artist and criminal Paul (Tom Chadbon), or distinguished archaeologist and lycanthropy expert Professor Lundgren (Peter Cushing)?

Copy picture

As a variety of tests are carried out to try to solve the mystery, allowing the film to play around with werewolf lore, a succession of clues are provided to give viewers the chance to try and figure it out. Little doubt about the reality of the situation is left due to a series of bloody killings which we witness first hand, including that of Caroline’s little dog. In this manner, the film cycles towards its most distinguishing feature, loathed by director Paul Annett and excised from version. Here the film pauses, a clock begins ticking, and viewers are informed that they have 30 seconds left in which to figure out who the werewolf is before the truth is revealed. (You can keep watching after this; the full truth is a little more complicated.)

With so many characters, there isn’t a lot of room to develop them individually. In some cases, like that of Cushing, Annett relies on audience expectations established by other films. Elsewhere, the actors compete, hamming it up to make themselves memorable. The prevailing mood of paranoia, mutual suspicion and one-upmanship makes it difficult to feel much empathy for them, but that’s okay. They’re still fun to watch, and the werewolf attack scenes, though unsophisticated by today’s standards, deliver plenty of entertainment. This may not be the finest piece of work by anyone involved, but it’s something of a must-see for fans of Seventies horror, and there are multiple reasons why it will stick in your mind.

Reviewed on: 15 Nov 2022
Share this with others on...
The Beast Must Die packshot
A wealthy game hunter invites a group of people to his remote mansion, suspecting one of them to be a werewolf. What follows is part action thriller, part Gothic whodunnit.

Director: Paul Annett

Writer: Michael Winder and Paul Annett, based on a short story by James Blish

Starring: Calvin Lockhart, Peter Cushing, Marlene Clark, Michael Gambon, Charles Gray, Ciaran Madden, Anton Diffring, Tom Chadbon

Year: 1974

Runtime: 93 minutes

Country: UK


Abertoir 2022

Search database: