Strange and Fantastic Tales of the 20th Century is a look back at the weirdest, most memorable, and most off center movies of the 20th century. From head turning horror to oddball science fiction this column examines the films that will leave a lasting impression for centuries to come.
Have you ever been to a party where the host invites you over just so they could start some drama? Well, this is pretty much what happens when Tom Newcliffe, eccentric millionaire, expert hunter, and instigator invites some of the fanciest and weirdest people he knows over for dinner. Someone is a shape-shifting killer. But who could it be? Maybe it’s YOU. Find out in this week’s strange and fantastic tale from 1974, The Beast Must Die.
Directed by Paul Annett, The Beast Must Die has all the trappings of a classic murder mystery. Locked in a mansion surrounded by miles of gardens, affluent guests with unique backgrounds come together. Tom Newcliffe is brilliantly played by Calvin Lockhart who has gathered a motley crew consisting of, but not limited to ,scholars, musicians, cannibals, and even a woman who has had the unfortunate experience of showing up to parties where people die.
The Beast Must Die, brought to us by Amicus, has that distinctive Hammer touch of style and over the top sceneries and characters. Peter Cushing plays Dr. Lundgren, one of the guests who seems to delight in Newcliffe’s social experiment. Paul Foote, the cannibal, is there to have a good time. He admits he ate human flesh, but it was college, he explains.
Why are the guests gathered? Same reason that the audience is invited to view the film. Tom Newcliffe declares that one of them is a werewolf and the werewolf will be revealed over the weekend. We are invited to take part in the mystery and gather clues. There’s even a werewolf break. Which is not what I thought it would be. I was hoping for some werewolf breakdancing, werewolf stand up, or even a werewolf cooking show, but it’s just a chance to recap the suspects and mull over some final thoughts.
Is it Paul Foote? Could it be Jan, played by Michael Gambon? Or maybe even Tom’s wife Caroline (Marlene Clark). Watch and find out. It’s a delightful film where everyone vacillates between acting incredibly guilty or incredibly bored. Either way, the audience is never bored (maybe guilty?) Wear your fanciest 70’s frock and invite your friends over to watch The Beast Must Die.
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