5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
Not an unqualified success, but well worth a look,
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This review is from: Beasts - The Complete Series [DVD]  (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.