It's loose...Something is killing soldiers on the Lancashire moors - something with razor sharp talons and a brutal strength. Could it be a wild animal, as the police think? Or could it be something far more vicious? Joyce (Flora Robson) and Ellie Ballantyne (Beryl Reid) know what it is. They might look like innocent old ladies but they have a guilty secret. Thirty years ago, they made a fateful decision, one they have lived with ever since. But their secret cannot remain buried forever.
Mild Spoilers ...
- The Beast in the Cellar review by NP
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In a year awash with horror films comes this oddity, built around the familiarity and fondness cinema-goers had for the leading ladies. When Beryl Reid’s Ellie potters over the hillside, or Flora Robson’s Joyce is introduced sternly cleaning the house, it is the actresses we are being treated to, with the characters of Ellie and Joyce yet to be introduced to us.
The production is more reminiscent of a heartfelt Ealing drama interspersed with briefly glimpsed moments of graphic horror than usual Tigon fare.
Apparently, the flashes of gore – and a brief scene of underwear removal during a kiss-and-cuddle scene to ‘spice it up’ – were added after filming was over, at the insistence of Producer and Distributor Tony Tenser who felt, understandably, that this was a very tame presentation.
‘The Beast in the Cellar’ could have been lifted from a stage production, as much of the focus is inside the farmhouse, and there is a tendency for the leading players (Ellie, Joyce and soldier Alan, played by John Hamill) to indulge in lengthy preamble, telling each other and the audience what they already know.
James Kelley’s creeping direction often makes the most of the evocative location but wastes too much time on mundanities; there is a scene where Ellie discovers the Beast has escaped, which has her scuttling through the house, down some stairs, into the garden, by the side of some sheds, into the barn – and then back again - which seems to drag on forever. Soldier Alan visits the ladies to make sure they are alright, to tell them of the frightening events and killings occurring all around them, and then to assure them not to worry. His cheerful visits are relentless, and surprisingly nothing is made of the friendship between him and wholesome local nurse Joanne Sutherland (Tessa Wyatt).
The ‘beast’, when revealed, is … a wide-eyed bearded old man. Hardly a thing of nightmares – indicative of the film as a whole, in fact. Well played by all concerned, the story is too thin (indeed, everything you need to know is summed up in the title) and sedate to satisfy. And yet some elements remain unexplained - just why does Joyce take to dressing in her late father’s army coat and cap when she thinks no-one is watching? The reason for brother Steven’s incarceration is murky at best. These things would have been more effective had the audience furnished with some reasoning or motivation. What could have been truly frightening results in an inoffensive, even quaint, pot-boiler.