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4 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A great example of the work of Nigel Kneale., 2 May 2009
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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