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THE BOOK OF BEASTS

Written By:

Martin Unsworth
beasts

People of a certain age – or those who discovered the series via the sadly missed Network DVD release – will recall the anthology show Beasts fondly. A series of six separate stories written by the legendary Nigel Kneale (Quatermass) have stuck in the memories of many, and Andrew Screen’s weighty book is the first and certainly most comprehensive writing on the 1976 series that’s ever been attempted.

As well as an overview of each of the episodes (and a bonus Kneale story that appeared in the series Against the Crowd, a tale often considered a prelude to Beasts), each chapter goes into great detail about the themes of the stories. How the subjects said something about our fears and where the country was at the time. Despite the contemporary settings, the stories bear the hallmarks of folk horror, which we feel helps them still resonate so powerfully today. In the examination of The Dummy, Screen considers the actors who are known for playing monsters since the episode follows an unfortunate chap who is haunted by the creature he has played on screen.

The two episodes everyone remembers are During Barty’s Party and Baby, but Screen’s dissection of the series shows that the others also have a lot going for them as well. Each chapter is meticulously researched and, given Screen’s access to archive material, utterly fascinating.

If you haven’t seen the series, don’t let that put you off delving into The Book of Beasts, but be aware many of the show’s surprises will be revealed. However, you’ll certainly want to track down a copy of the now out-of-print DVD straight after you read it.

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THE BOOK OF BEASTS is available from Headpress.com

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