Friday, January 14, 2022

Tonight's Movie: The Beast Must Die (1952) - A Flicker Alley Blu-ray Review

One of the great joys of attending the Noir City Hollywood and Arthur Lyons Film Noir Festivals has been becoming acquainted with Argentinian film noir.

My first such film was HARDLY A CRIMINAL (1949), also known as APENAS UN DELICUENTE, in 2014.

Since then I've also seen THE BITTER STEMS (1956), aka LOS TALLOS AMARGOS, at Noir City in 2016; THE BEAST MUST DIE (1952), known in its native Argentina as LA BESTIA DEBE MORIR, on opening night of the 2020 Noir City Festival; and most recently THE BLACK VAMPIRE (1953), EL VAMPIRO NEGRO, at last fall's Arthur Lyons Film Noir Festival.

It's a genuine thrill that two of these films, THE BEAST MUST DIE and THE BITTER STEMS, are now available from Flicker Alley in beautiful Blu-ray/DVD combo sets.

I'm starting off with a review of my favorite of the two films, THE BEAST MUST DIE, which was based on a 1938 novel by Nicholas Blake. Blake was a pen name for Cecil Day-Lewis, who incidentally was also the father of Oscar-winning actor Daniel Day-Lewis.

THE BEAST MUST DIE is a rather dark but very absorbing film which starts off with an exciting opening and ultimately builds to an equally impressive ending.

The audience initially sees Jorge Rattery (Guillermo Battaglia) dropping dead -- poisoned! His family members are surprised but no one seems especially distraught, other than his mother (Milagro de la Vega). In fact, they all rather take their time about calling for help!  Hmmmm.

Eventually we are introduced to Frank Carter (Narciso Ibanez Menta), who writes some memorable words 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."

On these words the story hinges, as Frank adopts an entirely new identity as Felix Lane. Frank/Felix is on the trail of the man who killed his little boy (Eduardo Mayano), and a beautiful movie star (gorgeous Laura Hidalgo) unknowingly leads "Felix" to the man he's seeking -- her brother-in-law, Jorge Rattery. I'll leave it to the viewer to discover what happens from there...

This is an atmospheric film with moving performances and an almost spiritual ending. In fact, I think the final scene impacted me even more on this second viewing than on the first.

Honestly, I also think remembering that this was one of the very small number of films I saw theatrically in 2020 added to the way it moved me as I revisited it. Things were already getting strange on the evening we saw it, and five days later the state of California shut down. For me personally, those memories rather add to the film's haunting mood.

Anyone who loves American film noir should try this film along with THE BITTER STEMS and any other Argentinian noir there's an opportunity to see. I've found my experiences with Argentine cinema to date quite rewarding and look forward to seeing more.

I especially hope to see more films starring Laura Hidalgo, who reminds me of Yvonne De Carlo. Hidalgo was born in Romania but grew up in Argentina. She passed away in La Jolla, California, in 2005.

THE BEAST MUST DIE was directed by Roman Vinoly Barreto, who also cowrote the script with lead actor Ibanez Menta. It was filmed in black and white by Alberto Etchebehere. It runs 95 minutes.

I watched the Blu-ray in the Flicker Alley set. The Film Noir Foundation print, restored by the UCLA Film & Television Archive, is beautiful.

The Flicker Alley set is beautifully produced; I loved the contrasting colors of the Blu-ray and DVD discs, which provide pleasing "eye candy" before the movie's even begun. The case cover can be reversed to show striking Spanish-language cover art, and there's also a glossy booklet with an essay by Eddie Muller and numerous photos.

The booklet includes a wonderful color photo of writer Cecil Day-Lewis's family, including his son Daniel, who was a young boy at the time.

Muller also provides an interesting introduction to the film on the disc itself. Additional extras include a commentary track by Guido Segal; a featurette on lead actor Narciso Ibanez Menta; and an interview with Daniel Vinoly, son of the director.

I'll have a review of THE BITTER STEMS up soon. (Update: Here is the review!) I'm also extremely excited about Flicker Alley's upcoming release of one of my all-time favorite discoveries thanks to the Film Noir Foundation -- REPEAT PERFORMANCE (1947).

Thanks to Flicker Alley for providing a review copy of this Blu-ray/DVD set.

THE BEAST MUST DIE may be purchased at the Flicker Alley website as well as through retailers such as Amazon.


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