Beast Must Die (The) AKA Black Werewolf (Blu-ray) [Blu-ray]
Blu-ray B - United Kingdom - Powerhouse Films
Review written by and copyright: Rick Curzon (5th June 2020).
The Film

Calvin Lockhart (A Dandy in Aspic) and Marlene Clark (Ganja & Hess) have invited a disparate group of guests, including Peter Cushing (Corruption), Michael Gambon (The Cook, the Thief, His Wife & Her Lover) and Charles Gray (The Legacy), to their mansion in the English countryside. He believes one of them is a werewolf… and, before the weekend is out, he’ll find out who it is!

The last of Amicus’ famed horror productions, The Beast Must Die combines the country-house whodunnit with the werewolf shocker and adds a dash of blaxploitation for good measure.

Video

One of Amicus' most entertaining films and arguably the best of their stand alone, non-portmanteau horror films. I have seen this on the big screen about ten years ago projected from 35mm film at The Bradford Science and Media Museum; it was a vintage print and not in the best of shape. I've also seen The Beast Must Die on UK terrestrial TV and every home video iteration bar Laserdisc. The recent US BD from Severin was very problematic as it was taken from a vintage print and had plenty of signs of age and damage.

Powerhouse Films have used Studio Canal's restoration which strikes me as impeccable; no signs of print damage or age related wear and tear. Never have I seen this looking and sounding (see below) as good as it it is here. Most striking are the colours which have had their lustre restored. Flesh tones are warm, rich generally natural but with a green bias overall. The green forests have never looked lusher and the marvellous sets and locations really come off well; the production design stands out nicely as well.

Blacks have been beautifully rendered with plenty of shadow detail when required and no unintended crush unless it was always there in the original cinematography. There are plenty of patches of intended crush in some of the darker sequences but they've always been there, even in 35mm prints.

Speaking of which, the late Jack Hildyard will be in the great hereafter having a crafty jolt of his favourite tipple with a big cheeky grin of pride at how lush this film has polished up here. Contrast is layered and supportive; no blown out highlights and detail is always visible along all focal planes.

Film grain is ever present; fine in bright interiors, course in darker scenes and exteriors. It's been expertly handled by the superb encode; techno freaks will be very happy. There are no signs of any digital tinkering.

Shy of The Beast Must Die getting a spanking new 4K or even 8K restoration and a corresponding UHD BD release we shan't be seeing this film looking any better. It's on a BD50 with a maxed out bitrate. Well done Powerhouse!

1080/24p / MPEG-4 AVC / 1.66:1 / 93:12

Audio

English LPCM 1.0
Subtitles: English HoH

The simple mono track has been beautifully restored with not a shred of hiss of distortions. Dialogue is always crystal clear and the superb Douglas Gamley jazz infused action score is never getting in the way of clarity. Base is healthy and surprisingly satisfying given the limited nature of the original track. Considering this is a mono track for a low budget British horror-action hybrid it has surprising subtleties; quiet patches have a nice "air" sound with no clipping where noise reduction has been used - see Studio Canal's Avengers TV releases for instance; Universal's initial restored DVD of Frankenstein (1931). These earlier presentations have a clipped quiet quality that can be heard clearly on a 5.1 a,p. Not so here; as good a 1974 1.0 track as we can expect.

Suntitles for the hearing impaired have been beautifully handled and are very welcome.

Extras

Audio Commentary by director Paul Annett moderated by Jonathan Sothcott (2003)

Vintage commentary was created back in 2003 for the UK Anchor Bay Amicus Coffin boxset. Sothcott gets the best out of Annett who discusses not only the film in some detail bit also his career. An essential companion to this film for the last 17 years since it was first released and it's great to have it married to the finest presentation of the film yet released.

"Interview with Max J. Rosenberg: Conducted by Jonathan Sothcott in 2000" plays as an alternate audio track over the film (47:20)

Rosenberg was a tricky character and as far as I can tell he was very keen on taking the credit for all successes, less so his failures. He's a slightly irascible character in most interviews I've heard or seen with him. This is no different but Sothcott handles him well (with at least one un-PC comment) as he delves into his career ephemera; The Beast Must Die barely gets a mention. Sound quality is lacking due to various circumstances but is very listenable and everything can be heard.

"The British Entertainment History Project (BEHP) Interview with Jack Hildyard by filmmaker Alan Lawson on 7 January 1988" plays as an alternate audio track over the film (92:01)

"The British Entertainment History Project (BEHP) Interview with Peter Tanner Part Two: 1939-1987 conducted by filmmakers Roy Fowler and Taffy Haines on 6 August 1987" plays as an alternate audio track over the film (80:18)


Two comprehensive screen talk recordings; I found the chat with Hildyard to he more personally interesting but both are essential for fans. If you've listened to any of the prior screen talk recordings done for BEHP or the BFI

"Introduction by Stephen Laws" 2020 featurette (3:34)

Another wonderful, passionate intro from Laws. Always one of the first extras I go to.

"Directing the Beast: An Interview with Paul Annett” 2003 featurette (12:58)

Vintage piece from the 2003 Anchor Bay UK Amicus Coffin boxset. An excellent little featurette focussing on director Annett who is sadly no longer with us; a valuable record of his thoughts along with his commentary.

Super 8 Version (18:36)

Creaky looking colour and sound film digest from the days before home video and VHS.

Theatrical Trailer (0:58)
Theatrical Trailer with commentary by Kim Newman and David Flint (0:58)


Goofy trailer with and without interesting commentary from two pros who're also fans.

The Beast Must Die Image Gallery: Original Promotional Material (95 images)

Surprisingly chunky HD gallery.

40-page liner notes booklet by Neil Young, an archival article on Amicus Productions, a look at the James Blish short story which inspired the film, an extract from the pressbook profiling actor Calvin Lockhart, an overview of contemporary critical responses, and film credits

An essential printed companion piece to the film; plenty of contextual added value here ... as usual for Powerhouse Films Indicator series.

Packaging

Standard clear Blu-ray case as used by Powerhouse Films.

Overall

I've seen this film at a revival theatrical 35mm screening, on TV, on VHS, on DVD (two different releases) and finally the last time was on the US Severin BD.

Quite simply, it's never - repeat, never - looked or sounded as good as it does on this new release from Powerhouse Films. That's it, period. For that reason alone this would be one of THE discs of the year. However, it's stacked with vintage and newly available supplements that make this disc an absolutely essential purchase for any fan of horror, Amicus or '70s action cinema.

The Film: B Video: A+ Audio: A+ Extras: A+ Overall: A+

 


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