The Beast Must Die

Director: Paul Annett

UK - 1974

   Hoff! Hoff!   

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Every time I go to the video store, every time I choose a film, I think, "I'm going to find a lost classic; the elusive diamond in rough." Sadly, I'm more often than not disappointed. But every once in a while, when the solstice happens to fall on a Sunday, and the moon is in line with Uranus (Ha! That one never gets old!), I strike pay-dirt. Now, I'm not saying Black Werewolf is the Ben-Hur of the horror genre, but it really isn't all that bad. Please keep in mind, this is the first movie I've reviewed since the last three stinkers I've had the displeasure of inducing, and to be quite honest, I may be just a bit desensitized. Then again, I Yup, he still has no neck.have been trying to take a more optimistic slant on life, and perhaps it's finally starting to sink in. No more disregarding films as trash just because it features a Baldwin. I will abstain from pulling my hair out when a trailer concentrates more on the "hot, alternative soundtrack" than the actual film itself. Never again will I throw my ten dollar Hoyt's Cinema 32 oz. Cherry Coke at the geeks..ahem, I mean people..who applaud during "Senseless Surveys." Like a New Age philosopher once said, I've acquired that "peaceful, easy feeling."

The movie gave me a slight scare, at first; A warning flare went off as soon as the opening credits started to roll. Only two seconds in, they're already using day-for-night, and the title sequence consists of a montage of trees and an abrupt cut to a still-shot of a shaggy dog with the words BLACK WEREWOLF super-imposed over its furry hide. Please don't tell me that the Shaggy D.A. is the titular monster. Or even worse, the whole film is shot day-for-night thus making the antics of the Shaggy D.A. indiscernible. The only thing worse than an unwatchable movie is an unwatchable movie that you literally can't see. But being the trooper that I am, I stood (well, sat) fast and continued to watch. What came next were a few surprises. Hey, that's Peter Cushing! Granted, that doesn't necessarily guarantee quality, but at least an actor of some caliber is present. Then came my next surprise. Hey, that's the guy from Rocky Horror! You know, the stuffy narrator guy who does the Time Warp on his desk! Yeah, that guy! Besides Shock Treatment, I didn't think he starred in anything else (until further research on the IMDB, of course). So, with a renewed sense of hope, I carried on and eventually persevered through Black Werewolf.

Calvin Lockhart plays Tom Newcliffe, a big-game hunter who has seen (and killed) just about everything. Tom is world-renowned for not only his superior skill in killing stuff, but also for his millions upon millions of dollars - not unlike Ted Nugent. (The difference being, Tom is a shrewd businessman, and Ted, of course, is a hair-rocker.) It seems that Tom has grown weary of conventional hunting and has decided to set his "sights" a little higher. Get it? "Sights?" Bork! Bork! Anyway, he invites a group of strangers to his mansion in the middle ofI fail to see the "sport" with a cannon that size. nowhere. Soon thereafter, it comes to light that each has somewhat of a nefarious past. But the similarities don't end there. Tom explains to the group how each party attendee has, in one way or another, dabbled in cannibalism. So they eat a little of the "other white meat," what's the big deal? Well, Tom is also convinced that one of his guests is a werewolf - Bum-bum-buuum! - and has taken it upon himself to expose said creature and, naturally, kill it. The ultimate trophy! Tom is ready. The conditions are perfect. He has the mandatory wolfsbane, three nights of the full moon, a high-tech security system, and, of course, a great big gun.

And that, my friends, pretty much sums up the not-so-intricate plot. The movie revolves around Tom testing his guests trying to bring forth the beast, then, at night, the werewolf conveniently appears when no one is around, kills off a guest or two, Tom chases it about the grounds, doesn't catch it, and then he interrogates the survivors the next morning on their whereabouts the night before. The scenario's repetition does get somewhat tedious, but is easily overlooked.

One aspect that's a little harder to ignore, however, is Lockhart's overacting. You would think he was doing Shakespeare. Does Lockhart consider himself to be the Master Thespian? His actions indicate so. If he had even once declared "ACTING!" throughout the course of the film, I would've given Black Werewolf the honor of only one Hoff. What's sad is that it seemed like Calvin was trying to take mediocre lines from a mediocre script and turn it into something more than it was. A wise man once said that no matter how much you polish a turd, it is still only a turd. But I think the "E" for "Effort" is in order.

Another aspect which accentuated Lockhart's demanding screen presence was the overbearing score. It was the kind of music that would have worked well in Not exactly chilling, is it?an action sequence on "CHiPs," but unfortunately, not a werewolf movie. Unless the werewolf was a motorcycle cop. Say, a werewolf-motorcycle-cop-buddy movie? Maybe I can sell that to Troma.

Another checkmark against Black Werewolf is the aforementioned shaggy dog. On the coverbox it depicts a werewolf (a black werewolf, mind you), standing on two legs (a la Lon Chaney), in tattered jeans and a T-shirt (a la The Incredible Hulk) holding a scantily-clad woman in his arms (a la The Toxic Avenger). Said werewolf, unfortunately, does not appear in this movie - nor does the woman, for that matter. Instead we get a shaggy dog. Not quite An American Werewolf in London, but all in all, this is only a minute problem.

Oh, and in some scenes the werewolf is clearly running around in the daylight. But now I'm just being nitpicky.

Overall, though flawed, Black Werewolf works. It's creepy and atmospheric at times, yet silly and entertaining at others. And it has the Time Warp guy.   

 

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