Tuesday, November 12, 2019

The Werewolf Break

A while ago I briefly discussed William Castle's Homicidal here and mentioned its gimmick, the 'Fright Break', whereby patrons were given thirty seconds to leave before the climax and claim their money back.  Well, the 'Werewolf Break' from Amicus' 1974 film The Beast Must Die is a variation on this gimmick.  In this case, there is no option to leave and get your money back, but instead a chance to identify who the werewolf is.  In truth, The Beast Must Die needed all the help it could get - producers Amicus specialised in anthology films and their attempts at regular horror films with single stories always felt somewhat overstretched and full of padding.  This stab at a werewolf movie is no exception.  In their attempt to sustain a single plot for ninety minutes or so, Amicus decided to make a cross-genre effort, with the plot resolving down into a country house type Agatha Christie style situation, with the suspects confined on an island, their numbers gradually reduced by the resident lycanthrope, (much in the manner of And Then There Were None).  They also decided to make the main protagonist black, in the form of Calvin Lockhart's millionaire hunter obsessed with bagging a werewolf, in order to appeal to the Blaxploitation market.

In the end, this mix of elements doesn't really mix.  The film's biggest problem is the fact that we never actually see the werewolf clearly.  There are none of the transformation scenes one would normally expect from a werewolf movie.  It is also, for a horror movie, surprising light on blood and gore.  Indeed, as I recall, additional gore had to be inserted for the BBFC to give it an X Certificate, which was considered essential for the marketing of a horror film, (they had originally awarded it only a AA, which would have allowed children over twelve to see it).  Still, while lacking in suspense, The Beast Must Die does have a couple of decent action set pieces, a groovy sub James Bond musical score and a good cast, including Lockhart, Peter Cushing and Charles Gray.  Speaking of the cast, yes, that is a young Michael Gambon as Jan, one of the suspects in the 'Werewolf Break'.  He can be seen in supporting roles in a number of films of this ilk made in the early seventies.  Oh, and did you guess who the werewolf was?



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