Written by: Michael Den Boer on May 23rd, 2014
Theatrical Release Date: USA, 1982
Director: Philippe Mora
Writer: Tom Holland
Cast: Ronny Cox, Bibi Besch, Paul Clemens, Don Gordon, R.G. Armstrong, Katherine Moffat, L.Q. Jones, Logan Ramsey, John Dennis Johnston, Ron Soble, Luke Askew, Meshach Taylor
BluRay released: May 12th, 2014
Approximate running times: 98 minutes
Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1 Widescreen / 1080 Progressive / MPEG-4 AVC
Rating: 18 (UK)
Sound: DTS-HD Stereo English
Subtitles: English SDH
BluRay Release: Arrow Video
Region Coding: Region B
Retail Price: £24.99
Synopsis: The parents of a gravely ill young man who has a disease that no doctor has ever seen before return to the rural town were the boy was conceived. The child was a product of rap and the couple hopes to find the birth father in hope of curing their dying son. Shortly after their arrival an inner voice draws their son to where his parents went in search of answers. Not wanting to send him away due to his illness they allow him to stay. Unfortunately for this family the answers are not that forthcoming and the more they pry the more they agitate the locales. And to further complicate matters there is madman on the loose who is savagely killing the locales.
The Beast Within was directed by Philippe Mora who also directed the cult classic Mad Dog Morgan. Key collaborators on The Beast Within include screenwriter Tom Holland (Class of 1984, Fright Night) and composer Les Baxter who most is known for his work with AIP (American International Pictures), more specifically his work on Roger Corman’s Poe Films and providing the scores for the American release versions of many of Mario Bava’s films.
Though all genres go through cycles depending on the public’s taste at any given moment, when it comes to the Horror film genre one would be hard pressed to find a more resilient genre. The Horror genre is so hard to perform last rites on just the psychopaths’ killers that refuse to go away in so many Horror films. Growing up in the 1980’s I was able to experience what is arguably the Horror genres greatest decade. And like so many Horror enthusiast I tried to track down every film that spawned froth from this era as young impressionable adolescent. And yet despite my eagerness to see every moment of celluloid I could get my hands on, there were a few films that fell through the cracks, most notably The Beast Within. You know what they say, better late than never…
Right from the initial setup for The Beast Within I knew I was in for a real treat as during these opening moments a woman gets rape by a half seen beast that has just escaped from its captors. Then things jump forward and settle in as the remainder of the film is spent trying to uncover what happened that night. Along the way the sickly young man at the center of this tale of macabre falls in love with a girl he has just meet and like all teenage boys (sort of) he goes through a lot of changes before the films finale.
Content wise, this film is like a mix of Dr. Jekyll and Hyde and the works of H.P. Lovecraft, think of the weird townspeople from Dunwich and other Lovecraftain towns. When it comes to gore this film delivers is spades. And though the special effects may appear primitive compared to today’s standards, they have on odd charm to them. The films visually effortlessly create atmosphere and when needed they help reinforce the mounting terror. Pacing in never an issue and Les Baxter’s menacing score ranks amongst his best work of his career.
From a performance stand point this is the one area that often can be the trickiest when it comes to the Horror genre. Things can be played for frights or they can be delivered for laughs. Thankfully this film stays away from humor and just lets the blood and guts, do the talking. The cast are all good in their respective roles, especially this film’s leading man Paul Clemons in the role of young man who is dying from a mysterious disease. Ultimately The Beast Within is highly entertaining film that culminates with a truly satisfying payoff.
The Beast Within comes on a 50 GB dual layer BluRay. The film is presented in a 1080 progressive widescreen. Though there are many areas where this transfer and Shout! Factory’s transfers are comparable. There are a few glaring instances where Arrow clearly trumps that afore mentioned release from Shout! Factory like stronger black levels, the amount of detail in very frame is also a big leap and most importantly Arrow’s transfer does not have any of the compression issues that plagued Shout! Factory’s transfer.
This release comes with one audio option, a DTS-HD Stereo mix in English. Range wise things tend to fare best during moments of mayhem and when the film’s score is present. Dialog always comes through clearly and everything sounds balanced. The audio track for this release is comparable to the one used for Shout! Factory’s release. Also included with this release are removable English SDH subtitles.
‘Storyboarding The Beast’ (13 minutes 29 seconds – 1080 Progressive Widescreen) that includes comments from Philippe Mora who discusses the film’s journey from storyboard to screen, a informative documentary titled ‘I Was a Teenage Cicada: The Making of The Beast Within’ (45 minutes 43 seconds – 1080 Progressive Widescreen) with comments from screenwriter Tom Holland, actors Paul Clemens, John Dennis Johnston, Katherine Moffat and effects wizard Garry Elmendorf and an audio commentary with director Philippe Mora moderated by Calum Waddell.
The extras included with this release are comprehensive as they cover in great detail all the main areas of this production. Other things covered in the extras include various other projects that the participants have been involved in. Needless to no stone is left unturned.
Rounding out the extras is reversible covert art and a booklet featuring new writing on the film by Lee Gambin, author of Massacred by Mother Nature: Exploring the Natural Horror Film plus a contemporary article on the film’s production, all illustrated with original stills and artwork. Also included with this release is a DVD counterpart that contents all the contents from the Blu-Ray. Overall Arrow Video gives The Beast Within its most definitive release to date.