Director: Paul Annett
Dark Sky Films/MPI

England's Amicus films was still going strong well into the 1970s -- long after the sudden fall of the British horror genre -- even though their once traditional projects ultimately succumbed to competing big budget fantasy from Hollywood. Instead of churning out another traditional period piece for their last horror entry (which is also one of Britain's few werewolf films), the producers delivered a modern-day mix of Agatha Christie and "Most Dangerous Game" antics surrounded by James Bond gadgetry and a hero as fashionable and daring as Shaft, complete with dated but catchy "wah-wah" music.

Calvin Lockhart (COTTON COMES TO HARLEM) is Tom Newcliffe, a wealthy sportsman who invites some friends to his well-guarded, enormous estate. He believes that one of the guests is a werewolf, and he intends on hunting and killing the guilty party, but not before he forces them to bite on silver bullets to prove their innocence. His property is heavily monitored by Pavel (Anton Diffring, CIRCUS OF HORRORS, MARK OF THE DEVIL PART II) and his elaborate closed-circuit television set-up. When the werewolf appears on screen, he's played by a large dog made up to look like a black, bushy beast on all fours (for the most part, it works and is a breath of fresh hair, quite different from many of the traditional werewolf films of the day). During the last act of the film, there's a "Werewolf Break" (narrated by Valentine Dyall of HORROR HOTEL fame) where the viewers are given 30 seconds to deduct which guest is a lycanthrope.

THE BEAST MUST DIE is an unconventional werewolf movie that starts off rather tediously, but becomes more interesting to watch by the second half, making it the kind of film that grows on you with repeated viewings. Despite the awkward William Castle-style gimmick and a mystery that will quickly be solved by process of elimination, there's still some enjoyment to be had, with a few inventive takes on the werewolf legend. Calvin Lockhart is so hammy that he comes off like a beefier George Jefferson with a Harry Belafonte voice! The great Peter Cushing (who else?) plays a heavy-accented, chain-smoking doctor who knows more facts about werewolves than you can shake a bone at, and Charles Gray (remarkable in THE DEVIL RIDES OUT) doesn't get to do much but play Chess and complain. Exploitation film favorite Marlene Clark -- hot of the heels of titles like NIGHT OF THE COBRA WOMAN and GANJA AND HESS -- is Lockhart's despondent wife. The excellent cast of snooty house guests is rounded out by Tom Chadbon, Ciaran Madden and Michael Gambon, who has recently gained newfound fame in the “Harry Potter” series.

THE BEAST MUST DIE has been available on VHS through many labels in this country (one under the ridiculous video title, BLACK WEREWOLF). All of these versions were full screen, and worst of all, they were all edited TV prints. Image Entertainment released the film on DVD a few years ago, but this new version from Dark Sky Films is an improvement. Presenting it uncut (there are some rather grotesque aftermaths of the wolf's attack), the anamorphic widescreen 1.78:1 transfer has sharp contrasts and agreeable, vibrant colors. Some scenes look a tad soft, but overall the transfer is very good, with a minimal amount of print blemishes. The English Dolby Digital 2.0 mono audio is strong and clear, and optional English subtitles are included.

Extras include a commentary (originally produced for the Anchor Bay PAL Region 2 release) with director Paul Annett, moderated by Jonathan Sothcott. This was Annette’s first feature film, and here he recalls what it was like working for Amicus, his relationship with Milton Subotsky (whom he impersonates!) and Max J. Rosenberg, that he wanted Shirley Bassey to act in it, what it was like working with Cushing and the rest of the cast, his loathing of the "Werewolf Break" (added later by the producers without his consent), he hints that Robert Quarry might have been originally considered for the lead, and much more. The commentary stays very much on focus, touching upon all facets of the film, and Sothcott has obviously done his homework and does a great job. A featurette entitled “Directing The Beast!” (directed by Sothcott, and also originally produced for the Anchor Bay PAL release) is a sit-down interview with Annett who touches upon a number of fun anecdotes, including associate producer John Dark taking him to his first meeting with Cushing (and Vincent Price as well) on the set of Jim Clark’s MADHOUSE, working with the dog who played the werewolf, and concludes that he’s open to a BEAST remake. Other extras include cast and crew biographies, a poster and still gallery, and a TV spot for the film, as well as a one for AND NOW THE SCREAMING STARTS and the British trailer for ASYLUM. Chris Gullo (author of In All Sincerity… Peter Cushing) writes the booklet's liner notes, which includes interview quotes from the director. Well done! (George R. Reis)