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78 of 80 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Classic TV horror from the 1970's
I saw this series when it first came out and if there have been any re-runs I have missed them. There are only 6 episodes, plus an extra "Murrain" from another series. The first one, 'Baby' is the one I most remember and one particular image from this episode has stayed with me ever since. A vet and his pregnant wife move into a new home in the countryside. They find an...
Published on 30 Jun 2006 by I. R. Kerr

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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Not an unqualified success, but well worth a look
1976 anthology series Beasts isn't one of the great Nigel Kneale's finest achievements despite some typically strong dialogue ("Misunderstanding can be so much more dangerous than ignorance," "One's offspring are a distorting mirror: they mock one with themselves, I have to remember I am not THAT"), but it does show there were more strings to his bow than just...
Published on 14 Oct 2009 by Trevor Willsmer


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78 of 80 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Classic TV horror from the 1970's, 30 Jun 2006
By 
I. R. Kerr (Lancashire) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Beasts - The Complete Series [DVD] [1976] (DVD)
I saw this series when it first came out and if there have been any re-runs I have missed them. There are only 6 episodes, plus an extra "Murrain" from another series. The first one, 'Baby' is the one I most remember and one particular image from this episode has stayed with me ever since. A vet and his pregnant wife move into a new home in the countryside. They find an old jar and inside it a strange mummified creature. The wife hears that the area has a history of animal miscarriages and this plays on her mind,soon she starts to see the rocking chair moving and hears strange noises. The suspense builds up brilliantly until the last scene when she goes to investigate a noise downstairs and sees.....well you just have to see it.
The second one is about a ghostly dolphin 'Buddyboy' and is more of a psychological horror. It stars Martin Shaw as the owner of an adult movie theatre, thus allowing a few brief breast flashes to be used.
"The Dummy" concerns a C list actor's descent into alcoholism over his wife, who has left him for another actor and his dependence on one role, that of a shrunken Godzilla "The Dummy" of the title. Is he pushed over the edge by his depression or is there something more sinister?
"Special Offer" is based in a supermarket where strange things are occurring. Could it be their mascot "Briteway Billy" is really alive or are the poltergeist like disturbances more do with the plain check-out girl's infatuation with her boss. A great character performance by Pauline Quirke.
"What Big Eyes" has a man who tries to become a werewolf by extracting blood from wolves and experimenting on himself. An RSPCA inspector checking on the wolves disappearances is on his trail.
"During Barty's Party" is a claustrophobic tale of an elderly couple whose home comes under attack from what they believe to be a horde of rats, once again nothing is seen. Their only hope appears to be contact via a radio phone-in show.
There is no closing music which neatly sets off the fact that the stories tend to end with a suggestion of the terror to come rather than complete disclosure, some may regard this as a weakness but at the time I remember it being very effective and creepy.
You also get a booklet on the making of the series and several PDF files of the scripts you can look at on your PC. Well done Network for getting this ATV gem on release, let's hope some more see the light of day soon.
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28 of 30 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The boundless imagination of Nigel Kneale, 14 Feb 2007
This review is from: Beasts - The Complete Series [DVD] [1976] (DVD)
Anyone who enjoyed the Quatermass series and the Stone Tape will appreciate these seven gems. Nigel Kneale was brimming over with original ideas and had an enormous talent for generating a tense atmosphere. In particular "Baby" where a young couple find a huge jar containing unrecognisable mummified remains in the wall of their new home; "During Barty's Party" where an older couple are besieged by unseen rodents scratching and chewing beneath the floor; "Murrain" where a young vet finds himself involved in a witch hunt in a remote rural village - are very taut and disturbing stories. These three are my favourites but I enjoyed all seven. The actors are excellent and some of the acting (of at least one actor in each film) is nicely over-the-top - adding to the feeling of people coming unhinged and losing control. In each case, the focus of the terror - the thing most feared - is suggested rather than shown. This generates a sense of unease that I find so much more real and intense than the computer generated horrors of recent films, that leave absolutely nothing to the imagination. Kneale understood that the human imagination is far more powerful than any film-maker's clever visual tricks. Films like these provide a chance for viewers to give their imagination a bit of a work out in a way that's quite rare with most modern films - and the imagination does need to be exercised from time to time, otherwise it can just atrophy.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Not an unqualified success, but well worth a look, 14 Oct 2009
By 
Trevor Willsmer (London, England) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Beasts - The Complete Series [DVD] [1976] (DVD)
1976 anthology series Beasts isn't one of the great Nigel Kneale's finest achievements despite some typically strong dialogue ("Misunderstanding can be so much more dangerous than ignorance," "One's offspring are a distorting mirror: they mock one with themselves, I have to remember I am not THAT"), but it does show there were more strings to his bow than just sci-fi.

There's certainly a variable success rate: The Baby feels a little unsatisfying and not as fully developed as it could be (and the fact it inspired Russell Tedious Davies to write is certainly a black mark against it). Buddy Boy is perhaps the strangest, drawing parallels between the exploitation of animals and the exploitation of women as Martin Shaw's crude porn baron with delusions of taste negotiates to turn a disused dolphinarium into a porn cinema, playing on the fact its owner is being haunted by (stay with me here) a dolphin he killed.

During Barty's Party starts as a middle-class drama - we think it's just another successful businessman with a wife who may drink too much and imagine too much - before subverting expectations as it turns out there really IS something very nasty and unseen under the floorboards: a migration of thousands of rats that have not only developed a resistance to poison but with it lost their fear of man and evolved an aggressive tendency. There's an even more impressive unseen predatory menace stalking the supermarket aisles of Special Offer thanks to some surprisingly excellent low-key special effects, but again the focus is on character, indifference and casual cruelty, here centred around Pauline Quirke's abused checkout girl. Big Eyes offers proof that Michael Kitchen was young once, here cast against Patrick Magee, who comes over as a malicious cross between Albert Steptoe, Shylock and Samuel Beckett as a different kind of mad scientist to the one we usually see in horror films (and one who regards his daughter as "too dull to defend") as Kneale reworks Little Red Riding Hood as uncomfortable psychodrama.

But the triumph is The Dummy, with Kneale taking his revenge on Hammer Films with a backstage story about the man inside a monster suit in a cheap horror film going through a nervous breakdown when the man who stole his wife is cast on the film. More psychological drama than outright horror, it's a compelling hybrid of everyday humiliation and nightmare that pretty much justifies getting the DVD on its own.

Also included as an extra and almost a pilot for the series, the 1975 episode from anthology series Against the Crowd that Kneale wrote, Murrain, is an impressively ambiguous piece, with David Simeon's vet finding himself drafted by Bernard Lee's farmer and the superstitious modern-day villagers to deal with Una Brandon-Jones's persecuted old woman they believe is a witch. There's also a very informative booklet on the making of the series and its reception as well.
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23 of 26 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars At long last!, 25 April 2006
By 
Robert Mcmahon "howard phillips 65" (glasgow, u.k.) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Beasts - The Complete Series [DVD] [1976] (DVD)
I can remember watching this extremely creepy series as an 11 year old when it was first transmitted in the mid-70's, and the memories of it have stayed with me. I love the idea of animals suddenly deciding that they can do without man,also the theme of another classic, the also very creepy 'Long Weekend',If the idea of scary supernatural tales involving malevolent animals is your bag then buy this dvd.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Well worth it just for "Baby" and "Murrain", 5 July 2012
By 
W. I. C. Mitchell (UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Beasts - The Complete Series [DVD] [1976] (DVD)
This is a series of six plays by the Manx writer Nigel Kneale, who is perhaps best known as the author of Quatermass and The Pit. The plays are unconnected with each other but share the same thematic content, much of which can be traced to Kneale's Manx heritage and his appreciation of the uncanny. They were filmed by ATV and broadcast on ITV in 1976. The six constituent episodes are as follows:

1. "Special Offer", in which a young Pauline Quirke plays a checkout girl at the heart of poltergeist activity in a supermarket.
2. "During Barty's Party", in which the world becomes overrun by rats.
3. "Buddyboy", where a derelict aquarium is haunted by the spirit of an abused dolphin.
4. "Baby", the best of the bunch, which chillingly tells of how a young wife's pregnancy is compromised by ancient witchcraft.
5. "What Big Eyes", in which an RSPCA inspector investigates a pet shop owner with ambitions to become a werewolf.
6. "The Dummy", the worst of the bunch, where an alcoholic actor in a monster costume self-identifies too much with the role and descends into a violent madness.

The DVD contains a bonus feature, Murrain. Although this was not part of the Beasts series it was produced in a similar vein. Together with the Baby episode these two plays are the making of the DVD. Like Children of the Stones, they are a first-rate example of 1970's TV witchcraft at work.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Completely ahine!, 12 Mar 2012
By 
feline1 (Brighton, Sussex, UK) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Beasts - The Complete Series [DVD] [1976] (DVD)
Like nearly all Nigel Kneale productions, this series is essential viewing. That's not so much because it's perfect in its execution (it would be pushing things to say that it was), but rather because you are likely to sit there open-mouthed thinking "I can't believe they put this on television!?" And no, I don't mean that in the sense of "I can't believe they let something this bad on television" - it's more that it's just so damn ODD in places, yet everyone on screen is taking it all so immensely seriously... it's toying with madness right before your eyes.

For example, one story has Doyle out of The Professionals playing the owner of a p0rn cinema, trying to buy new premesis off some Arthur Daley character who is terrified by one of his ex-employees, namely a young lady who is possessed by the ghost of a dead dolphin. (No, really).
Now ask yourself, would such a storyline ever be broadcast on television today?! I doubt it. But in 1975 it was up there on ITV, with ad-breaks in the middle for Curly Wurlies and Readybrek. I defy anyone to watch something like this and not feel slightly 'altered' by it. It's a surrealist slap in the chops, TV to prod your mind and defamiliarise the mundane around you. Cos that girl on the bus or on the Tescos cheese counter *could* be possessed by the ghost of a dead dolphin, you know... Maybe...
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Beasts, 6 Jun 2013
By 
Mrs. A. Rhodes "angie" (england) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Beasts - The Complete Series [DVD] [1976] (DVD)
I was so excited to find this series, on Dvd, and fo sale on Amazon! Iwas at school, when it was shown, on tv, The episode, that stuck in my mind, was Baby! It scared me, for days, after watching it again, yes it still gives mr the heebie jeebies!
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A great example of the work of Nigel Kneale., 2 May 2009
By 
Mr. I. Clarke "wellerard_21" (Leeds UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Beasts - The Complete Series [DVD] [1976] (DVD)
Nigel Kneale has an almost hallowed position among TV and film script writers. The man who wrote the four Quatermass serials, dramatised 1984 in the 50's to great controversy, and came up with the now alarmingly prophetic Year of the Sex Olympics, highlights something in these six tales, (seven in you include Murrain) that was an ongoing concern with Kneale, looking at elements supernatural or otherwise of nature and the mind, in particular, re-writing the ghost story for the modern age. Quatermass and the Pit, The Ghost Road, and the superb The Stone Tape took the ghost story and twisted them round into forces of nature which could be investigated, but which we don't yet understand and should rightly fear. In every story here, Kneale hints at what has happened in the end, but leaves the viewer to make their own mind up, something helped well by the complete lack of theme music.

Murrain asks you to decide whether an old woman, hounded by the rest of the locals in the village (headed up by Bearnard Lee), is really a witch as they claim, or just a lonely old woman. As the visiting RSPCA officer gets to know her, you may think one thing, but will the ending change your mind?

Baby is a superb chiller, right from the word go, the direction and the acting gives you a wonderful sense of foreboding and a vet and his pregnant wife struggle to adapt in a their new country home, rumoured to be cursed by a witch. Well played particularly by Simon McCorkindale and T.P. McKenna, and the last shots really do stick chillingly in the mind.

Buddyboy is one of the weaker entries in the series, although a just pre Professionals Martin Shaw does give a fantastic performance as the porn king buying the old Dolhpinarium on the cheap, and trying to find out what what the owner was trying to hide as he becomes obsessed with an odd young girl who worked there. The idea here is that nature takes revenge on those who exploit, but the pace is just a little too slow.

The Dummy sends up the world of Hammer Horror very effectively, Kneale privatrely joking to himself about what would happen if something did go wrong on the set of a horror film. Some very good and precise perfiomances from some classic old British actors, including Simon Oates, Michael Sheard and Clive Swift. An alcoholic actor is pushed over the edge by his mysoginist co-star and confuses himself with the horror character he portrays.

Billy is helped along by a supern early character performance from Pauline Quirke. Some people have notived that beans flying off the shelf may not be terrifying, but the idea is to set something odd happening in the most banal place possible, in this case a supermarket. It's a good ensemble piece, but the manager really should have been driven much more to distraction to make it work.

What Big Eyes You Have is, again, a weaker one, but is helped along by two great perfomances by Patrick Magee and a young Michael Kitchen. Can gthe old professor turn himself into a wolf? You might find yourself believing him...

Finally, after Barty's Party is a superb exercise in suspense, played only by two actors, and with the emphasis being completely on suggestion; you are invited to imagine the horrific things taking place, this builds to a fantastic crescendo. Some reviewers think that this only ends where it runs out of ideas, but the idea for me is to convey that the situation always was hopeless all along, a fact hammered home by the naive complacency of Barty himself at the end as the worst happens. Think The Birds with a grim ending.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Inimitable, Bestial Visions of Nigel Kneale, 29 April 2009
By 
Nigel C. Jackson "SetheusPalingenius700" (Terre de Salvaesche) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Beasts - The Complete Series [DVD] [1976] (DVD)
Anything from the prolific scriptwriting pen of Nigel Kneale is well worth watching and has a special ambience all of it's own. The magic of Nigel Kneale's work lies in the sheer intelligence and compelling quality of the writing - a special quality clearly lost on a few undiscerning reviewers here. Here we are in the classic territory of the English supernatural tale, brought up-to-date mid 1970s-style and it comes as little surprise that Kneale's stories are invariably of a very high calibre indeed.

It's inspiring to see the raw elements of skilfully written script, stage-style, set-bound acting and thoughtful dialogue interacting to create these marvellously dark worlds with such a weird intensity. Paradoxically the low production values only seem to powerfully enhance the charged atmosphere of these bestial tales of otherness - In fact these strange and uniquely unsettling plays all make for satisfying viewing and linger in the mind long afterward. 'Baby' is really great, a disturbing tale of eldritch powers and ancient witchcraft erupting into the modern world. 'Buddyboy' is bleak viewing indeed, exploring cruel themes of animal and human exploitation and abuse in a quite desolating but incredibly thought-provoking way. The one which really stuck in my mind as a 12 yr old was 'What Big Eyes' which is a classic tale of lycanthropy set in the very unlikely environs of a dingy pet-shop scenario: it seriously frightened me as a boy and I still found it really effective as an adult, an amazing story and quite horrifying in its implications. With Nigel Kneale the real power is in the depth and intelligence of the ideas, characters and settings. Themes of the supernatural, spirits, poltergeist phenomena, eerie elements of folklore, deviated science and strange powers from beyond the familiar human world interweave in Nigel Kneale's 'Beasts' and make it a truly classic series, full of texture, character and atmosphere... it's period fare for sure but so much better than todays bland, inane drivel and dumbed-down commercial dross that it's hardly surprising that quality-starved viewers are relishing these precious DVD releases...great stuff, well worth obtaining!
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5.0 out of 5 stars Enjoyable 70's series, 15 Mar 2014
By 
SusanS "SusanS" (Wakefield, West Yorks) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Beasts - The Complete Series [DVD] [1976] (DVD)
I remember this series vaguely from the 70's, when I was a very young child. I remember the "Baby" episode and being absolutely terrified by it. I was too afraid to watch the final scenes and it gave me nightmares for months. I was interested to see if this was as frightening as I remember or just a big let down.

I enjoyed all the episodes- "What Big Eyes" and "The Dummy" were my least favourites- but still watchable.
I thought "Buddy Boy" was more sad than scary- Martin Shaw was good as the sleazy porn baron. "Special Offer" was not remotely frightening, with it's cans of beans, but I enjoyed Pauline Quirke's early performance. I also enjoyed "During Bartys Party", with the unseen, menacing rats.

The best, for me, was "Murrain", not part of the "Beasts" series. It seemed more developed and gritty. An old lady in a remote Derbyshire village is shunned for being a witch. An outsider tries to convince them she is a harmless old lady- or is she? A really interesting take on witchcraft and mob mentality.

I saved "Baby" for last- and watched it with some trepidation. The nasty thing they found in the wall still gave me the creeps, it's never explained fully what it was- it just suggests and leaves it to your imagination. I found some of the characters a bit annoying- especially the husband and his weird anger problem- what's with all the shouting?
The end scenes were (obviously), not as frightening as I remember, but I still found it very creepy and sinister.

The series was a bit dated- but the ideas are still good, and I had a very enjoyable Sunday afternoon watching these.
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Beasts - The Complete Series [DVD] [1976]
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