Note to future self: If an extremely rich “friend” who enjoys hunting invites you to his house in middle of nowhere and tells you that you’ll be spending the weekend without the chance of leaving, regretfully decline the offer and write off “friend”. 1974’s The Beasts Must Die is a film in which Tom Newcliffe (Calvin Lockhart), the rich friend, invites 5 of his friends that have all been strangely surrounded by tragedy wherever they go, to his sprawling estate for the weekend. Tom is an avid hunter and has been said to “shoot anything that moves” in order to add it to his collection. You might think from this description that Tom is interested in adding the Homo Sapien to his trophy collection, but in fact he’s searching for something much more elusive. Tom reckon’s that the due to the strange circumstances surrounding the tragedies that his friends have been involved in, that one of them is… A WEREWOLF!
Tom has wired his entire compound to record the movements of all visitors through both audio and video. He’s even gone so far as to embed super sensitive microphones in the ground that can determine what sort of creature is moving around the grounds at any time, and can detect this movement up to 1 mile away. He watches over his guests every action for signs that would point him towards his target. He’s also made sure to order in wolfs bane and brought out the fine silver candle sticks in order to flush out the lycanthope in his midst.
The movie is presented as a mystery, introduced by a narrator that informs the audience that they “are the detectives”. Near the end, they movie cust away and informs you that this is your 30 second “werewolf break” where you can assess the evidence in front of you and wager your guess on who the werewolf is. I thought that was a pretty cool touch. Throughout the movie I was trying to put all the evidence together and I kept thinking “Ok, it’s this guy… no… maybe it’s that guy.” I had the twist figured out by the end, but my guess was wrong.
It’s not much of a horror movie, it’s more of a suspense film, and there’s a low amount of gore. I found this movie unique because while the werewolf genre is already pretty light, I’m pretty sure this is the only blaxploitation werewolf movie out there – and I use blaxploitation lightly. You have Blacula (Vampire) and Blackenstein (Frankenstein), so I was happy to find a werewolf movie, and I hadn’t heard of this one previously.
While I enjoyed the mystery aspect, I have to let you all know, I was pretty disappointed by the actual “werewolf”. They only showed one transformation by the end, and the werewolf was just a black wolf, not a some kind of wolf man, but an actual wolf. Also, since Tom is supposed to be such a great hunter, I’d expect him to be a better shot. It seems like the only time he hits something is when it’s point blank in front of him, and even then you have to wonder if he hit anything. In one sequence in particular, someone is being attacked by the wolf, and a helicopter is in the background. He actually manages to miss the wolf and the guy, while they’re right in front of him, and he hits the gas tank of the helicopter as it explodes in the background. Either he’s got the worst aim ever, or he’s just trying to be fancy, I can’t figure it out, but I’d bet on the former.
The characters were all pretty good, and Calvin Lockhart stands out, and Peter Cushing does a great job as the creepy Dr. Lundgren (No relation to Dolph, unfortunately). Otherwise, there were no other big stand outs, and the cast just ended up complimenting each other. Oh, and also keep your ears open, because this one has a very bitchin soundtrack. I don’t usually comment on soundtracks, but this one really caught my attention – enough to make note of it here. In the end The Beast Must Die gets 3 full moons out of 5.