The Beast Must Die

Who is the Werewolf?The opening voiceover and dramatic white-on-black text of The Beast Must Die sums it up nicely:

“This film is a detective story — in which you are the detective.

“The question is not ‘Who is the murderer?’ — But ‘Who is the werewolf?’

“After all the clues have been shown– You will get a chance to give your answer. Watch for the Werewolf Break.”

There we are then: Amicus is presenting us with a country house whodunnit featuring a werewolf. Lon Chaney Jr. meets Agatha Christie, with an audience-participation gimmick straight out of the William Castle playbook. The Beast Must Die is cheesy in a funky 1970s way, but it’s those same elements that make it fun.  

The story starts off somewhere in the remote Scottish countryside, with a black man (Calvin Lockhart) being hunted in the woods. A man in a helicopter reports on whether or not he has “visual contact” whenever he sees “the target” or loses sight of him through the trees. Another man (Anton Diffring) seated in a control station with a wall of monitors and 1970s big computers reports “scanner contact” when he detects the runner on cameras placed in the trees or via sensors buried in the ground. A bunch of armed men drive around in a jeep, following the directions provided by these two men to locate their quarry. Some of men get out of the jeep to pursue “the target” on foot.

When the black man hides in the underbrush, unfortunately near a microphone, he’s discovered. One of the armed men points a rifle at him, but the control-room guy–who seems to be in charge–orders, “Give him another chance. Let him go.” The man with the rifle withdraws. “The target” runs off. The hunt resumes.

This introductory action sequence looks like a high-tech version of The Most Dangerous Game, but it’s all a clever inversion of our expectations.

The pursued man has a few more close calls with the armed men, but eventually he makes his way out of the woods, sweaty, out of breath, clothes a bit tattered and muddy. He steps onto the well-kept lawn of a large country house. A group of people are having tea. The armed men catch up with him and, to the horror of the tea party, shoot him. As they gather around him, he laughs.

Tom Newcliffe and his country house

The man is millionaire big-game-hunter Tom Newcliffe. The house belongs to him, and the people having tea on the lawn are his wife Caroline (Marlene Clark) and their guests for the weekend. The men who have been chasing him work for him, and the high-tech hunt is his idea of a fun way to check out his newly installed monitoring system.

I’d call Tom the hero of this story, since he’s the central character and the one who’s going to be playing detective, but he’s a self-centered, entitled jerk.

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Dark Shadows: The Skinwalkers

The Skinwalkers
I bought this Dark Shadows dramatic reading CD at the same time I bought The Ghost Watcher. Of the two, I liked that one better. I picked this one because it had to do with that period just after Quentin Collins’s departure from Collinwood in 1897, which is a part of the story I thought I’d like to hear more about.

This audio story begins with that gramophone music of Quentin’s that we’ve heard 400 times before, a sweet and sentimental old waltz. Quentin (read by David Selby, as always) announces that he’s “the last man standing, as ever.” Locked in a room, all alone. No, wait. Angelique (read by Lara Parker)  whispers in the background until Quentin finally hears her. The two strike up a conversation.

After some banter about the old days, Quentin settles in to tell Angelique the story of what happened to him after he left Collinwood.

He says that he arrived in New York City in 1899–which is odd, since that’s where he was headed for when he got on a train at the Collinsport station in the autumn of 1897. Either that was a very long trip, or else in his sleepless and brandified state, he got on the wrong train, ended up on the far side of the country, and took some months to get back to the East Coast.

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Kolchak: The Werewolf

Werewolf on a cruise ship (I know, I know, it’s serious)

Kolchak and the cruise ship There’s a lot I really like in this episode, and one thing that really lets it down. But we’ll save that for later.

After the usual introductory framing narration, which has Carl Kolchak sitting on a dock with the cruise ship he’s just disembarked from visible behind him, this week’s episode begins in snowy Chicago shortly before Christmas. The staff at INS is throwing a holiday party that doubles as a bon voyage for editor Tony Vincenzo, who is headed out for an all expenses paid working vacation aboard the passenger liner Hanover, a “floating anachronism” that’s been in service since the 1930s and has finally been run out of business by the jet age.

For those observing the evolution of the character Miss Emily, Ruth McDevitt appears briefly here for the first time as the INS staff  “office mother,” but the name of her character isn’t Emily; it’s Edith Cowells.

Unfortunately for poor Tony, a phone call in the middle of the party puts an end to his vacation plans. Accountants from the New York INS offices are coming to audit the Chicago INS office partyoffice’s accounts and Tony has to be there to pick them up at the airport–the same airport he was going to fly out of.  Since he can’t go and half the office staff are down with flu, Tony gives Carl his tickets and an assignment to write a nostalgia piece about the Hanover’s final journey, which happens to be a swinging singles cruise. Carl is also expected to deliver some personal interest stories about his fellow passengers.

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Dark Shadows: How Quentin Stopped Being a Werewolf

David Collins, brought from 1969 by Count Petofi to inhabit the body of his grandfather-as-a-young-boy Jameson, has been lying in a feverish state at Collinwood for several days. He doesn’t realize that he’s traveled back in time and that the Quentin Collins who’s being so attentive to him is a living man and not a ghost.

It’s Quentin who gets Angelique to help the sick boy. David recognizes her too, as Cassandra, even though she’s got long blonde hair and is wearing Victorian clothes. Angelique doesn’t explain to Quentin that she once was/will be David’s stepmother, since that’s far too complicated. She’s never told him that she used to be married to Barnabas about 100 years ago either.

After some argument with Count Petofi over which one of them is more evil, Angelique removes the Count’s spells. David is returned to 1969 and Jameson awakes; the last thing he remembers is saying goodbye to Victor Fenn-Gibbon (aka Count Petofi), which is the point at which he became possessed.

The funny thing is that Angelique does have the power to travel through time, without all that I Ching business that Barnabas used. We’ve seen her do it, jumping from 1795 to the 1960s once she learned that Barnabas was there, and appearing in 1897 of her own will. She also sent Eve back to the 1790s, so she’s in a much better position to do what the Count wants, if only he weren’t so snotty to her.

Jameson’s father Edward has also recovered his wits and no longer thinks he’s the butler. Their recovery gives all the male Collinses a chance to bond, not just father and son, but the two brothers. They’d even hug if they weren’t so rigidly Victorian.

The other outcome of this is that Angelique and Quentin are engaged again; she insists on it as repayment for her services. In addition, Angelique says that she’ll give curing Quentin of his werewolf curse another try–but ultimately, she isn’t the one who manages it.
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Dark Shadows: Hand with a Mind of Its Own

The Hand haunts Collinwood!

When Quentin Collins first sees his old friend Evan Hanley hideously disfigured by an encounter with the Hand of Count Petofi, he doesn’t recognize him.

And when Barnabas and Magda tell him that they want to use the Hand to cure him, he’s even more reluctant to go near it than he was when they initially suggested that he allow that grisly object to touch him. What if the Hand does the same thing to him?

It is a tough choice. Which is worse: the risk of possibly permanent horrible physical disfigurement and mental damage, or going all wolfy 2 or 3 nights every month?

You’d think that Quentin would do anything to keep his handsome face from getting mucked up, but as the full moon rises he panics at the prospect of turning into a werewolf again and accepts the touch of the Hand.

It doesn’t appear to do anything; he transforms into a werewolf as usual and goes running around the Collinwood grounds. He menaces, but does not harm, Charity Trask.

These type of attacks have been going on for a few months and the local police are finally prepared to deal with the mysterious, well-dressed beast seen wandering the woods at night. They’ve put out leg-traps and Werewolf-Quentin obligingly steps into one and is captured. He’s taken to the Collinsport Gaol (the sign outside still spells it the British way) and put into a cell.

Edward Collins comes to see what man this creature will transform into in the morning. He doesn’t imagine that the werewolf is his own brother.
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