The Beast Must Die is a 1974 horror film directed by Paul Annett. The screenplay was written by Michael Winder, based on the short story "There Shall Be No Darkness" by James Blish which was originally published in Thrilling Wonder Stories. The film starred Calvin Lockhart, Peter Cushing, Marlene Clark, Michael Gambon, Charles Gray, Anton Diffring, Ciaran Madden, and Tom Chadbon.
The story is, in essence, a conflation of Agatha Christie’s And Then There Were None (aka, Ten Little Indians) and Richard Connell’s The Most Dangerous Game, with elements of the werewolf mythos stirred in for good measure.
It revolves around the search for a werewolf on a far off island by a group of serious minded people out to find it. The viewer is invited to unfold the mystery along with the characters. Near the ending, there an inserted 30-second break called "The Werewolf Break", where the audience is asked to guess the werewolf's identity, based on clues from the movie. In the interview with director Annett on the DVD release, Annett says he hated the addition of the werewolf break. It was not in Annett's version of the film; he attributes the idea to producer Milton Subotsky. He does admit that some, including critic Leonard Maltin, liked it.
An alternate version of the film was released under the title Black Werewolf. This cut omits the "werewolf break" near the climax.
The millionaire Tom Newcliffe (Calvin Lockhart) invites a group of people to spend some time in his rural English mansion, along with his wife Caroline (Marlene Clark) where he reveals that one of them is a werewolf, and therefore must be killed. The group is composed of:Arthur Bennington (Charles Gray) – a diplomat.
Jan and Davina Gilmore (Michael Gambon and Ciaran Madden) – a pianist and his ex-student, now wife.
Paul Foote (Tom Chadbon) – an artist recently released from prison.
Prof. Lundgren (Peter Cushing) an archaeologist and a lycanthropy enthusiast.
They all stay in the mansion where they are submitted to various tests to detect whether they might be a werewolf. The entire house is under surveillance by CCTV cameras as well as motion sensors in the grounds around the mansion set up and overseen by Tom's associate Pavel (Anton Diffring), who doesn't believe in werewolves.
The only way to determine the identity of the werewolf is by for a certain combination of elements to occur all at once. These include the full moon, and pollen being present in the air from a wolfsbane flower. When this fails to produce any lycanthropic reactions, Tom makes each of the potential werewolves grab silver objects to provoke allergic reactions, but this too proves unsuccessful. Later that same night, Pavel is killed by the werewolf, which makes Tom even more obsessive in his hunt, to his wife's increasing annoyance. Tom gradually focuses his suspicions on Paul Foote, who was reportedly arrested after eating human flesh. Foote denies being the werewolf as the creature continues killing, with the helicopter pilot, Arthur Bennington, and Caroline's dog all falling victim.
Tom subjects the remaining group to one final test: to place a silver bullet in their mouth. As Caroline submits to the test, her hairy, clawed hand is shown before she immediately transforms into the werewolf. She (fully transformed) attacks Tom and he kills her by shooting her with a silver bullet, leaving him very distraught and confused because Caroline was alongside him when the werewolf killed her dog. Prof. Lundgren deduces that Caroline must have contracted the werewolf disease while taking care of her dog's wounds due to an open cut on her hand she sustained from a broken wineglass at dinner. Tom becomes enraged, convinced that Foote is the werewolf. When he attempts to confront him, however, he finds that Foote has also been killed. To avenge his wife, he enters the woods surrounding the mansion to hunt the werewolf. He finds the beast and finally shoots and kills it. Once dead, the werewolf reverts to its human form and it is revealed to be Jan, the pianist.
Tom returns to Prof. Lundgren and Davina, and he realizes that he was bitten by the werewolf during the scuffle, thus condemning him to inherit the creature's curse. Not wanting to be a monster, Tom locks himself in the mansion and shoots himself in the head with a silver bullet, ending the werewolf's bloodline.
Allmovie wrote, "The non-anthology output of Amicus Productions tended to be hit-and-miss, but The Beast Must Die is an interesting if lightweight horror-mystery hybrid from the studio." The film currently holds a modest three star rating (5.7/10) on IMDb
The film was released on DVD as part of the Umbrella Entertainment box set Amicus: The Studio That Dripped Blood. The film includes the following special features: Commentary by director Paul Annett; "Directing The Beast" featurette; Amicus Collection Trailers. Running time: 93 mins.
It is also included in a coffin-shaped Amicus box set released by Anchor Bay Entertainment.
The film was released separately on DVD on 25 July 2006, by Dark Sky Films. The film includes the following special features: Commentary by director Paul Annett; "Directing The Beast" featurette; Paul Annett's tribute to Peter Cushing; Cast and crew bios; Liner notes; trailers and a still gallery.
Due to the small production budget, the "werewolf" was played by a German Shepherd Dog which was dressed up with shaggy dark fur to give it a larger physical look. This movie was one of the last films for Amicus films, followed only by the trilogy of films based on the works of Edgar Rice Burroughs and the studio closed its doors to movies as the 1970s ended.