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  • I only recall seeing 2 episodes of this six-part series - "Buddyboy" & "Baby". The first of these, a tale of an old aquarium haunted by the spirit of a dolphin(!) was entertaining enough - but the latter was the one that stayed with me. "Baby" features a young couple who move into a centuries-old farmhouse and in the process of renovation uncover some kind of mummified farmyard freak walled up in an old chimney breast (IIRC). From this point on, the atmosphere of tension and unease mounts as more and more peculiar things begin to occur in their new home. The climax comes when the expectant mother wakes up one night having heard something downstairs... When I saw this particular story I was 9 years old. I experienced weeks of sleepless nights as a result, and more than one nightmare. Of course, I did have a rocking chair in my bedroom at the time (those of you who remember this story will realise the significance of this). Ever since the DVD format took off I've been hoping for a release of this series. The BFI originally planned to include a couple of episodes of "Beasts" as extras for their release of Nigel Kneale's "The Year Of The Sex Olympics". This plan fell through due to prohibitive costs. Given that so little of Kneale's work now remains unavailable on DVD, perhaps it's time that some enterprising company looked into unleashing "Beasts".

    Update as of 20/06/08:

    The good news is that, 2 years or so ago, someone decided that there was some mileage to be made out of one of Nigel Kneale's best unreleased works, so "Beasts" finally saw life again on a 2-disc DVD set, with a nice crisp transfer that is at least as good as the original transmission quality. There are some extras, too, including a stills gallery, a few PDFs, a well researched booklet on Kneale's televisual work and, for me, what amounts to the best extra in this mini box set - "Murrain", a one-off TV play that originally screened in 1975 and can in some ways be viewed as a sort of forerunner of the "Beasts" series itself.

    Did I enjoy watching "Beasts" again? Yes, I most certainly did. It's held up very well over the years, and doesn't show its age too badly. I now know that I did see more episodes of the series back in 1976 than just "Buddyboy" and "Baby" - I now recall having seen "Special Offer" (with a hilarious performance from Pauline Quirke, of all people) and "The Dummy" (some nice turns from Clive Swift, Bernard Horsfall and Michael Sheard - good Brit character actors all). My second viewing of "Baby" could not possibly hope to stand up to the terror of my original experience - but it's still an effective little chiller which will give most viewers (particularly the more imaginative) an enjoyable frisson of disquiet. The episode "During Barty's Party", which I did not see on its original transmission, is also highly recommended.

    "Beasts" is a rediscovered gem of 70s archive television and represents Nigel Kneale doing what he did best. Watch and enjoy.
  • I vaguely remember the "Baby" episode of Beasts, which someone describes really above. But it is the opening "Special Offer" episode that stuck in my mind more, mostly because the setting was so mundane.

    Like most throwaway 70s telly, I only saw it once, but I vividly remember Pauline Quirke playing a checkout girl in a supermarket who became obsessed with the store's cartoon mascot (a rabbit, I think) called Brightway Billy. She started hallucinating about seeing the rabbit in the shop. I was 12 when it was shown and it totally creeped me out, and created an atmosphere of insanity and hysteria in a very bland setting. At school the next day, every was imitating Pauline Quirke's moon face calling out for "Billy!".
  • There have been many moments on television considered the scariest but i remember vividly an episode from this series entitled BABY. Like many other reviewers here it scared me half to death as a boy, so it was with much trepidation that and interest i began watching a copy of the series ....believe me that episode has lost non of its power. Obvious;y some of the effects have dated but its such a frightening story and so well told that it still sends a shiver down the spine. I never watched any other episodes so cannot comment on how they came across at the time but having watched them now they stand up very well indeed.

    They are a little on the 'wordy' side and are very studio bound, the lack of budget allows the stories to breath (sometimes a bit too much on BUDDY BOY), relying more on actors than flashy MTV editing styles. Stand outs be During Barty's Party (relying on 2 actors and a sound effect) and Baby (that thing!!!).
  • The only reason I don't give "Beasts" a top 10 is that there aren't many episodes. There should have been a second series - I reckon they would have been just as good.

    Each episode from this series has a self- contained plot and they range from witchcraft to possession.

    The production values are a bit modest but the beauty lays in the acting and the writing. For sheer storytelling, this kind of television is sorely missed.
  • "Beasts" (1976) Nigel Kneale is perhaps best known for his Quatermass series of writings and also some Hammer films. Here he has gathered a delightfully varied group of stories, that to this viewers eye seem like an extended Amicus production, some of them would not be out of place in such a film. What is good about this one off series is that they are written with an obvious passion for mystery and the macabre, Kneale delights in telling us his stories with one eye firmly placed on examining the science of these mysteries, as a result, the final films are that much more sinister and perhaps scarier. All these films are very talky and rather slow, but ultimately they all have features that will reward the patient viewer.

    Special Offer(1976) Richard Bramall 5/10 The every day workings of a supermarket are thrown into disarray when stock mysteriously begins to explode and get thrown from the shelves. This coincides with the arrival of a new member of staff, a dowdy, spotty teenager Noreen Beale, who is immediately disowned by members of staff and customers alike who don't care much for her. Is she responsible or is the store being haunted by an its own invisible mascot? Special Offer has some good ideas that are reminiscent of Horror classics Carrie and Poltergeist, we are never really sure who or what is responsible, a slow but steady start to this series.

    During Barty's Party(1976) Don Leaver 8/10 A businessman Roger Truscott, returns home to his secluded home to find his wife Angie in a state of terror, she doesn't know why, but puts sit down to a dream she had, of a couple of amorous lovers being killed and their yellow car being abandoned? Very soon they hear scratching noises under the floor boards, they put it down to rats, but the noises seem to be following them around the house, Angie turns up the radio to drown out the sounds, the broadcast is interrupted by news reports of thousands of gigantic rats that have caused chaos and have been sighted in the area. The Truscotts soon realise they are trapped in their home by thousands of intelligent rats. This is a rather unsettling story, the foe remains unseen which builds up the tension tremendously, its slow to build up but the finale is quite terrifying.

    Buddy Boy(1976) Don Taylor 6/10 A playboy (Martin Shaw) decides to buy an old Dolphinarium and turn it into a Night club/sex shop, the owner seems desperate to get rid of it in a quick deal, believing the premises are haunted by the spirit of a dolphin, the famous "Buddy Boy" who was killed in mysterious circumstances years previously. Lucy is a former employee who now squats there, she believes the owner Crisp killed him. Novel idea, that drags a little, but the performances are decent and keep you interested. The ending is a little abrupt and open to interpretation.

    Baby(1976) John Nelson 8/10 A vet and his pregnant wife, peter and Jo Gilkes, move to the country to start a new life in a busy country practice. While renovating their farmhouse they find a large urn hidden in an alcove in a wall,seemingly there for a long time, inside they find the dried out remains of a "creature", is it a lamb? A pig? A monkey perhaps, they can't quite tell, Peter decides to have it taken to a lab for testing, the workmen in their home tell them to get rid of it, stating it could be an evil charm to bring harm to its recipient. But before Peter can do this, Jo begins to hear strange noise around the house, she investigates further and soon believes her child may be at risk. Spooky tale, we are never sure what is going to happen until the end, the creature is unsettling too.

    What Big Eyes(1976) Donald McWhinnie 8/10 Bob Curry is a very dilligent RSPCA officer who inquires into the illegal importation of rare animals, in this instance its Romanian Wolves. His snooping leads to him to a seemingly innocent looking family pet shop. Here he is given shirt shrift by owner Leo Raymount (Patrick Magee) who tells him its none of his business what he does with them, Curry persists and Raymount regales him with tales of his secret scientific experiments into Lycanthrophy. Curry is dismissive at first, but soon begins to question whether or not there is any credence to his claims. This is an excellent scientific exploration of werewolves, again its very talky, but the dialogue is enthralling and the performances are excellent.

    The Dummy(1976) Don Leaver 7/10 A down on his luck actor Clyde Boyd, on the verge of a nervous breakdown after the collapse of his marriage, becomes more disturbed on the set of his latest Horror film, when he realises that the man who stole his wife is also starring in it. After some speedy counselling from the producer who will stop at nothing to keep the production going, Boyd begins to believe he is becoming the monster he is portraying. The costumes in the film within a film are third rate as you might expect, but it's a fine exposition on the horror film business.
  • I saw During Barty's Party when it was first shown on British TV in 1976; I was twelve and it was a special treat from my grandparents, whose house I was staying at. I had nightmares for weeks! This is a wonderfully crafted story: two actors and the suggestion of a terrible, unseen threat worked together in scaring the undergarments off this viewer! Some of the images, notably the last one, have stayed with me for 30 years. Do NOT watch this alone.

    Without giving too much away: as the story unfolds, everything works by suggestion. Washed-out, bleak 70's British TV production values help in establishing the normality that horror needs as a baseline for all the nastiness to happen against. And the ending is truly haunting.
  • philkessell14 October 2005
    My abiding memory is of some chap incarcerated in his living room, ringing into some radio show and having something nasty getting nearer and nearer...and nearer. You never saw anything, but then again you never had to.

    Even the word 'beasts' takes us all back there doesn't it? I try and be objective. I saw this in late 1976, and never since. I was 9 years old, hardly capable of critical reasoning. Yet, across the gulf of time, images and thought processes immeasurably superior to adulthood come back to you.

    I'd like to watch it now, provided it don't ruin it.
  • I saw this at the age of 12 when it was broadcast for the first (and only) time. Two stories stick in my mind, Buddyboy, about a haunted Pool/Ghost Dolphin (memorable to me for a very well-endowed young lady removing her Bra!! ) But the story i remember most, the title of which i cant remember but concerned a plague of Rats, stealthily attacking people trapped in a country cottage.In the entire episode you never actually See a Rat! But it was done superbly. Always looked forward to seeing this show repeated, but never has been. It was a gem from Nigel Kneale, an Ace writer.
  • Belphunga2 November 2007
    I agree with zoothorn's review to the extent that 'Baby' is, by some distance, the scariest and most disturbing of the six and 'Murrain'– kind of a Straw Dogs/Wicker Man hybrid with Jarvis Cocker as a grumpy James Herriott – is the most satisfying dramatically. Probably not uncoincidentally, these episodes also have the most location filming.

    However, I don't believe this is grounds to entirely dismiss the other episodes in the series. 'The Dummy' is, I think, a successful blend of satire and horror (although with Hammer and the rest of the British film industry on its last legs in 1976 it must have seemed a bit belated). Special Offer has the great premise of Carrie transferred to a tacky British supermarket. Also a fine central performance from an unfeasibly young Pauline Quirke and, despite ATV's limited budgets, very effective FX – no shoestring in evidence anywhere in fact.

    On the other hand, 'What Big Eyes' ends up rather short changing the viewer and, despite its skillful escalation of tension,'Barty's Party' has been, I agree, somewhat overrated. The concept is too derivative of Hitchcock and James Herbert and doesn't really evoke any wider significance for the unfolding horrors.

    Finally, I can see why 'Buddyboy' is so well-remembered as it must be one of the weirdest pieces of drama I've ever seen on British TV. I can only assume Kneale's remit to make each episode as distinct as possible eventually propelled him down this bizarre blind alley, but trying to extract chills out of a storyline involving a telepathic dolphin (which we never actually see) was always going to be tricky. The most disturbing thing here is the close-up of Martin Shaw's sleazy porn cinema manager 'on the job' – you may never see Judge John Deed in the same light again.

    So, yes, by modern standards, these episodes are slowly paced, wordy and cheap. They were made at a time when TV drama was still largely derived from theatrical models and, at their worst, they are marred by OTT acting, lengthy expository dialogue and the constrictions of the set-bound productions. At their best, however, the acting is tremendous, character's and plot lines are given room to breathe, suspense is built gradually and the sheer ordinariness of the videotaped, studio-lit environments (and almost complete lack of a musical soundtrack) actually increases their creepy power.

    I think it is salutary to remind ourselves that there was a time when TV producers had faith in audiences to sit down and engage with an hour's worth of challenging, original drama broken by only one ad break. In these hyper-stimulated, mayfly attention span times, that makes this series a strange and oddly compelling beast indeed and, IMHO, this DVD release should not be dismissed as a mere footnote to Kneale's better known work.
  • All of these were entertaining to some degree; 'Baby' was genuinely scary, with a creepy build-up and a final scene that made me make an incoherent noise of terror. I remember kids at school who were somehow allowed to watch that one coming in traumatized the next day, huddling together wide-eyed in a sort of support group. I quite understand now: it almost did for me as a grown man.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    Nigel Kneale was one of the greatest horror/mystery writers of our times. On a par with Stephen King or H G Wells, his ideas were not only ahead of most contemporaries, but sadly most budgets.

    These days, the BBC is sending more staff to (literally) cover the Chinese Olympics than Britain is sending competitors. Yet when it comes to producing good-quality drama of a horrific kind, writers have invariably been short-changed.

    Mr Kneale was an astonishing national treasure who - if he'd been American - would, by now, have had a university named after him. But like H G Wells and many others, his memory is left to fend for itself whilst media and public alike pursue shallow, worthless celebrity.

    Well; that's said.

    For those who watched the 'Beasts' series as children, I'm not surprised they had nightmares. I was 25 when it was screened and still found the ideas disturbing. The items called 'During Barty's Party' and 'Baby' were particularly ill-timed as I had that year bought an old cottage, and as well as being attacked by a rat, found something trapped and mummified in the chimney. I buried it in the garden and hoped that nothing would turn up. Happily, nothing did.

    Like all the collaborations between Kneale and the BBC, production values were hopelessly short-changed. The actors suffered from melodramatic excess, direction was often inadequate, and I say - money scarce. This applies right back to the Quatermass period.

    Still, it is a testament to the depth and psychological power of Kneale's bogeys that they have transcended the mediocre production and budgeting. I should like to see them all done again. Only this time with the sort of costing enjoyed by James Cameron or Ridley Scott, and also with their talent for interpretive detail that quite clearly goes beyond anything possessed at Wood Lane.

    I've given just 5 stars for the series, and this reflects the poor production values. For Mr Kneale's ideas alone I would readily give 9 or 10.
  • Viewing Beasts some thirty nine years after it first terrified me, this six part drama series from ATV, written by British legend Nigel Kneale, still manages to give me goosebumps.

    Having honed his writing skills on the classic live '50s Quatermass series for the BBC, Kneale delivered this solid anthology over six consecutive weeks on dark Saturday evenings. Each episode of Beasts was a self-contained horror tale set in normal surroundings and featured a range of interesting characters who, in various different ways. experienced an unnerving encounter with the animal world (or, at least, a supernatural spin on it).

    The stories are, essentially, television plays. There are only a handful of main players in each episode and the action is limited to a few locations, thus giving the show a claustrophobic and sinister atmosphere. What makes Beasts so special is the sheer talent in front of the camera (the series has performances from such familiar faces as Patrick Magee, Michael Kitchen, Simon MacCorkindale, Martin Shaw and Pauline Quirke) and the top drawer quality of Nigel Kneale's scripts. For 1970's television, this is brave stuff; there are taboo subjects covered and adult themes run throughout each tale.

    Beasts is thought provoking and unsettling. It's sophisticated horror that lingers in the viewer's mind many hours after viewing. They don't make shows like this any more.

    Recommended for lovers of classic British horror. 9 out of 10.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    I always remembered staying up late and watching the series (especially 'Baby' and 'Barty's Party')but for the life of me could never remember the title or anything else about it (I was only 9 years old at the time). It was only when reading the writer's obituary that things clicked into place and I immediately bought the DVD.

    I admit I have no recollection of watching 'Dummy' or 'Special Offer'. I do remember the ending of 'What Big Eyes', being terrified by what was about to be possibly revealed behind the sheet.

    'Buddy Boy' I remembered very clearly and I found it just as creepy as I recalled.

    As for 'Baby', I have a confession to make. I was so scared when the young lady walked downstairs at the end, I hid my face from what was to come. It was left to my Nan to tell me, "there was a thing in the rocking chair." After 31 years I finally got to watch the "thing in the rocking chair," and wasn't too disappointed. I was glad I never watched it when I was nine! The most accomplished piece I think is 'During Barty's Party' which is striking in its minimalism and simplicity, being virtually one set and two actors. The effects however, all through the medium of sound and fine acting, are horrifying. It remains a terrifying piece of TV to this day.

    Great stuff.
  • zoothorn2117 October 2006
    Having just seen all 6 episodes of 'Beasts' on DVD, I fear that the enthusiastic posts here are from people who are relying on rose-tinted memories of a thirty-year old series. The sad truth is that, with the exception of 'Baby', none of the episodes here are very good, with a creaking budget (and sets) restricting the action terribly, and making, especially in the cases of 'Buddy Boy' and 'Special Offer', for some breathtakingly tedious and often laughable television. The much discussed 'During Barty's Party' would clearly be quite scary if you were 9 years old, but the two actors are absolutely terrible, and despite a nice concept, the show positively staggers to 55 minutes. I'm a huge fan of old British t.v., and there is much (Whistle And I'll Come To You, some episodes of Hammer House Of Horror, The Woman In Black) that has retained its power, but sadly the truth is that 'Beasts' isn't really up to much. Ironically, one of the extras on the DVD is 'Against The Crowd: Murrain', which is a fantastic and disturbing piece of television, far better than any of the 'Beasts' episodes! Rent the first disc for that alone, but be warned - it may be better to keep your memories as they are.
  • I've written individual reviews for each of the six episodes of "Beasts" but I thought I'd drop a quick review here in case you were wondering about watching the series. I came to them inspired by a tweet from Jeremy Dyson regarding his affection for the episode "Baby" which I then hunted down on Youtube. I then found the other five and watched them all.

    Created by Nigel Kneale (of Quartermass fame) "Beasts" is a small run of anthological style horror stories, which are roughly (in one case very roughly) linked by all having animals form a part of the plot. Production values are fairly high across all the episodes, certainly in keeping with comparable 70's style television. There are a sprinkling of recognisable names featured across the run, Martin Shaw, Pauline Quirke, Clive Swift, Michael Kitchen to name a few.

    A number of the reviewers here recall the show from when it aired originally, but I wasn't born until four years later so these viewings, in 2020, are my first look at them. I'd say that three of the episodes are quite good, with one "During Barty's Party" standing head and shoulders above the rest, a masterclass in sound design to tell a story. A further two are patchy and one "Buddy Boy" is one of the most bizarre hours of TV I've seen, and not in a good way. I don't think, despite the tension of "During Barty's Party" or the closing moments of "Baby" you'd find that many people nowadays would find these six stories particularly scary. "Buddy Boy" would be the only one unsuitable for family viewing, but those are because of moments of a sexual nature, rather than anything horrific.

    I'm glad I watched them, as some aspects of some of the stories have stayed with me, but it's admittedly a bit of a curate's egg.