The Beast Must Die (Viñoly Barreto, Argentina, 1952)

THE BEAST MUST DIE (1952) is another fabulous rescue mission from Flicker Alley and The Film Noir Foundation. An adaptation of a detective novel by Cecil Day Lewis – Daniel’s father – under the pseudonym of Nicholas Blake, the fourth novel in the Strangeways series. The beast is a rich industrialist who beats his wife, abuses his stepchild, and is openly having an affair with his business partner’s wife. He must die because one drunken evening driving with his sister-in-law, a famous actress, he killed a child in a hit and run, and the father, a writer of mystery novels is now out to get him. The film begins as the beast, tellingly named Rattery, imbibes some poison. But who did it? Flashback structure upended by biblical quotations from Ecclesiastes, suspects gathered in a stately home, a novelist and film star as protagonist, a journal as clue, expressionist lighting and fabulous nightmare montages: a superb film. In one of the extras to the DVD, one of  Viñoly Barreto’s sons speaks on how Argentina doesn’t have a national cinematheque or archive; how much of its film heritage has already been lost and even more is in danger. A crime. The novel has also been adapted by Chabrol (Que la bête meure, 1969) and there’s been a recent TV series based on it with Jared Harris as The Beast of the title.

José Arroyo

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