An unofficial and unauthorized guide by Andrew Screen to Nigel Kneale’s television series Beasts
In 1976 Nigel Kneale, creator of Quatermass, wrote six plays for ATV under the title and theme of Beasts. Each play, according to series publicity at the time, was linked by the “mystifying influence of animals, usually malevolent and menacing, in eerie circumstances.”
Since it was first broadcast Beasts has grown in reputation for presenting some of the most memorable and terrifying tales seen on British television…
- During Barty’s Party – rampaging rats attack and terrorize an isolated couple in a cottage.
- Special Offer – terror stalks a supermarket as one strange incident follows another. Is an unseen animal on the loose or is it a poltergeist?
- Buddyboy – can a dolphin become a ghost? Terrifying events in a vacant dolphinarium seem to indicate such a spirit has returned to haunt a prospective buyer.
- The Dummy – terror grips a film studio when an actor playing a movie monsters suffers a mental breakdown and is completely taken over by the creature he portrays.
- Baby – what are the strange mummified animal remains found within the walls of a renovated cottage and what power do they exert on an expectant mother?
- What Big Eyes – was Little Red Riding Hood’s grandmother eaten by a wolf or did she turn into a wolf? An eccentric scientist carries out experiments on his self to try and change into a wolf.
Also featured is Murrain, an episode of the earlier anthology series Against The Crowd, also written by Kneale, which can be seen as a backdoor pilot for Beasts.
Each episode is covered in detail with an in depth review that includes biographies and filmographies for the cast and crew, a critical appraisal of the episode and details about the production itself. The career of Nigel Kneale is documented in another section which also examines the recurring motifs and themes found in his body of work and how these are encapsulated within Beasts.
The book also presents a two part history of television anthology horror covering English and American TV series. Part one covers up to the broadcast of Beasts with the second part documenting the period post-Beasts up to the present day. This study looks at how the evolution of television production and storytelling and how this has shaped the genre of TV horror anthologies from humble beginnings, as single camera live transmissions, to the modern diverse and slickly produced programming of current times.
This critical appraisal of the series will examine where Beasts sits within the history of anthology horror TV series and within the body of Nigel Kneale’s work, how it is a key text of folk horror and how it has influenced modern horror creative’s.
Author: Andrew Screen