Sunday, March 08, 2020

Tonight's Movie: The Beast Must Die (1952) at the Noir City Film Festival

It's been a wonderful weekend at the 22nd Annual Noir City Film Festival!

We spent Friday evening and Sunday afternoon enjoying some terrific films from Argentina, (West) Germany, and Hollywood. They combined to provide us with interesting and enriching experiences.

The festival kicked off on opening night with a double bill of THE BEAST MUST DIE (1952), known in its native Argentina as LA BESTIA DEBE MORIR, shown in a restored 35mm print. It was paired with a digital print of GILDA (1946), starring Rita Hayworth and Glenn Ford. The films were linked by their Argentinian settings.

THE BEAST MUST DIE was based on a 1938 novel by Nicholas Blake. I was fascinated to learn that was the mystery-writing pen name of Cecil Day-Lewis -- father of Daniel Day-Lewis.

The movie starts in slam-bang fashion with a true beast of a man, Jorge Rattery (Guillermo Battaglia), falling dead after being poisoned. Jorge's extended family watches in shock but not necessarily dismay, other than his mother (Milagros de la Vega). No one seems to be in much of a hurry to call a doctor or the police!

In due course we learn that the story really begins with a widowed author, Frank Carter (Narciso Ibanez Menta), who writes in his diary "I am going to kill a man. I don’t know his name, I don’t know where he lives, I have no idea what he looks like. But I am going to find him and kill him."

The reason for the writer's plan is the hit-and-run killing of his little son Martie (Eduardo Moyano). Frank adopts a new identity, Felix Lane, to hunt down the killer who left his son alone instead of getting him help.

Along the way Frank/Felix also meets and falls in love with a beautiful movie star named Linda (Laura Hidalgo), who unknowingly leads him to the killer -- her brother-in-law, Jorge.

It's a moving and atmospheric story with terrific performances by the entire cast. I was especially impressed with Hidalgo, who reminded me strongly of Yvonne De Carlo, with a dash of Susan Hayward or Rhonda Fleming on the side. Hildalgo was a Romanian-born actress who grew up in Argentina. I'd love to see her in other films.

The movie has great atmosphere. The spooky sequence where the little boy dies reminded me strongly of scenes from Val Lewton's THE LEOPARD MAN (1942); it's not graphic. but it's very sad and disturbing. This sequence also serves to make the scenes in which Felix bonds with Jorge's abused stepson Ronnie (Humberto Balado) all the more moving.

The story sounds dark, and it is, but it's also absorbing and rewarding, building to a "wow" ending. I was glad I saw it -- all the more so as I appreciated another look at a top example of Argentinian cinema thanks to the Noir City Fest, where I've previously seen THE BITTER STEMS (1956), aka LOS TALLOS AMARGOS, and HARDLY A CRIMINAL (1949), aka APENAS UN DELINCUENTE. I'll be revisiting HARDLY A CRIMINAL this coming week. (Update: Well, that didn't happen!)

Side note: It's interesting that, like 20th Century-Fox's Mexican-language INSURE YOUR WIFE! (1935) a number of years before, most of the Spanish-speaking characters have Anglo names.

THE BEAST MUST DIE was directed by Roman Vinoly Barreto and filmed in black and white by Alberto Etchebehere. It runs 95 minutes.

Coming soon: Reviews of GILDA (1946) and THE DEVIL STRIKES AT NIGHT (1957).

2021 Update: Great news, THE BEAST MUST DIE is being released in a Blu-ray/DVD combination set by Flicker Alley in the fall of 2021. My review of the Flicker Alley set is here.


Blogger Caftan Woman said...

Fascinating. Things started with a real winner.

6:24 AM  
Blogger Laura said...

This was indeed really interesting! I also enjoyed the German film we saw later in the weekend, which I'll be writing about soon. Very interesting to see new-to-me noir/crime films from around the world.

Best wishes,

11:48 AM  
Blogger KC said...

Very thoughtfully written Laura. I was sad to miss this at Seattle Noir City because I was out of town. Hope I get another chance to see it some day.

12:20 AM  
Blogger Unknown said...

Remade by Claude Chabrol as Que la bete meure.

10:51 AM  
Blogger Laura said...

Hope you get the chance to see it soon, KC!

Thanks for adding that bit of info, Unknown.

Best wishes,

1:11 PM  

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