Tuesday, November 17, 2009
The Making of The Beast Must Die
I wrote this quasi-review of The Beast Must Die for Screem magazine several years ago. It was rejected. Typically, whenever something of mine is rejected it's rejected for a very good reason: it's terrible. But for some reason or another, I still really like this review and for that reason alone I'm now going to inflict it upon both of my readers. I'm sorry gents.
The time is the early 1970s, director Paul Annett is discussing his latest project with producer Milton Subotsky in the offices of Amicus Studios...
Milton Subotsky: I understand you have a new script for me.
Paul Annett: I sure do(he tosses the script onto Subotsky's desk). What do you think?
MS: Well, first of all this isn't actually a script it's just a tattered copy of Agatha Christie's Ten Little Indians...
PA: Uh huh.
MS: ...and it appears that someone crossed out the word "Indians" and replaced it with "Werewolves"
PA: Right, right. Do you have a problem with that?
MS: Well, yes a number of problems actually.
PA: Woah! Wait a second! Before you jump the gun let me describe the premise.
MS: (Sighs) Fine.
PA: Great. OK. Picture this. There's this great white hunter type, OK? And he's sick of hunting down elephants and jaguars, right? So he decides to go after something a little different: werewolves!
MS: (Holding his head in his hands) Go on.
PA: OK. So this hunter invites suspected werewolves to his sprawling estate so he can track them and kill them. But the only way he can find out which one of his guests is a werewolf is by forcing them to suck on
a silver bullet while they touch a candlestick.
MS: (glaring at Annett) Pass.
PA: What if I told you that the hunter was a fearless black superhero like John Shaft?
MS: Hmmm. Blaxploitation films are pretty big at the moment. Who exactly did you have in mind for the role?
PA: Robert Quarry.
MS: He's white.
PA: Oliver Reed.
MS: Again. White.
PA: Who's that one guy? Richard...Something?
MS: Roundtree? From Shaft?
PA: No...Little. We can get him to do his crazy impressions. Have you ever seen his "Duke" Wayne? (impersonates Rich Little doing "Duke" Wayne) Oh, man he is so hi-goddamn-larious.
MS: (Sighs) Look I just don't think-
PA: I can get Peter Cushing to play a Danish Professor of Werewolf-ology!
MS: What the hell does that have to do with anything?
PA: Look, do you want to make this picture or not?
MS: Not really, no.
PA: Well, what if I told you we can make it next to nothing?
MS: I'm listening.
PA: What if our "werewolf" was actually just a dog covered in the remnants of an old shag rug I found in the dumpster near the Burger King my uncle manages?
MS: That could work I suppose. But it's still missing something.
PA: What do you mean? Like a gimmick?
MS: Exactly. Towards the film's climax we could grind the film to a complete halt with a "Werewolf Break" or something. For an entire minute we can ask the audience to figure out the identity of the werewolf or we can just have an usher dress up as a werewolf and smack a couple of the audience members around.
PA: Oh, I like that last idea. Maybe we can give him a shotgun that shoots delicious gummi worms?
MS: Now you're talking! Here's a check for 500 dollars. I want Ten Little Werewolves in the can by next Thursday.
In 1973 Ten Little Werewolves was made and released (minus Rich Little, the werewolf usher and the gummi shotgun gimmick) as The Beast Must Die. The film, which mixed UK Horror, Blaxploitation, The Most Dangerous Game and country house Who-dunits, went onto become one of the greatest minor footnotes in horror movie history and its star the late Calvin Lockhart will forever be remembered as "That black guy who played the asshole hunter in that shitty movie my friend made me watch last week".
To commemorate this non-enduring anti-classic Dark Sky films has released a special edition of The Beast Must Die on DVD. This disc includes trailers, commentary from Annett and a featurette in which he threatens us with the possibility of a remake.
Although boasting an interesting cast that includes Anton Diffring, Michael Gambon, Charles Gray and Marlene Clark ,The Beast Must Die never fully realizes its potential and gladly becomes just another bland horror
film. If anything it's a solid indication of how clueless and desperate the British horror industry became in the 70s.