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The Beast in the Cellar (1971)

Soldiers in a rural English town are being brutally murdered by an unknown creature. Two sisters living nearby realize they might understand what's happening.


James Kelley (as James Kelly)


James Kelley (original screenplay) (as James Kelly)


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Cast overview, first billed only:
Beryl Reid ... Ellie Ballantyne
Flora Robson ... Joyce Ballantyne
John Hamill ... Alan Marlow
Tessa Wyatt ... Nurse Sutherland
T.P. McKenna ... Det. Chief Sup. Paddick
John Kelland ... Sgt. Young
David Dodimead David Dodimead ... Dr. Spencer
Vernon Dobtcheff ... Newsmith
Dafydd Havard ... Stephen Ballantyne
Gail Lidstone Gail Lidstone ... Young Ellie
Elizabeth Choice Elizabeth Choice ... Young Joyce (as Elisabeth Choice)
Merlyn Ward Merlyn Ward ... Young Stephen (as Merlin Ward)
Anthony Heaton Anthony Heaton ... Anderson
Christopher Chittell ... Baker
Peter Craze Peter Craze ... Roy


Soldiers in a rural English town are being brutally murdered by an unknown creature. Two sisters living nearby realize they might understand what's happening.

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


A chill-filled festival of horror!


Horror | Thriller


R | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

View content advisory »






Release Date:

16 April 1971 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

Are You Dying, Young Man? See more »

Company Credits

Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:



Color (Eastmancolor) (uncredited)

Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
See full technical specs »

Did You Know?


Flora Robson and Beryl Reid were annoyed at the heavy cuts made in post which they thought damaged the film. See more »


In the flashback of the family going to the railway station in a pony and trap to meet their father coming home from the First World War, as they get to the station the white lines can be clearly seen in what must be the present day car park. See more »

Alternate Versions

The original UK cinema version was cut by the BBFC to edit shots of a couple disrobing and blood splashes during a murder scene in a barn. The 2004 Anchor Bay DVD is uncut. See more »


Featured in Movie Macabre: The Beast in the Cellar (1984) See more »


She Works in a Woman's Way
Written by Tony Macaulay & Barry Mason
Sung by Tony Burrows with The Edison Lighthouse
See more »

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User Reviews

"A Leopard? In Lancashire?"
31 October 2011 | by ferbs54See all my reviews

A tale of sibling overprotectiveness taken to horrifying extremes, the 1970 British film "The Beast in the Cellar" introduces us to a very unusual pair of elderly sisters indeed. When we first meet Joyce and Ellie Ballantyne (played, respectively, by the great English actresses Dame Flora Robson and Beryl Reid), the two are in quite a flustered tizzy, as a wild animal has started to kill off some young soldiers at the military base near their isolated country home in Lancashire. The authorities suspect that a leopard is to blame, but when the two aging biddies realize that "he has escaped from the cellar"...well, let's just say that they know better. And the less said about the titular beast, the better, I suppose, for those potential viewers who somehow may not have heard.

Anyway, "The Beast in the Cellar" is something of a mixed bag, at best, and certainly not abetted by its DVD presentation. The film's main strength is unquestionably the most impressive performances turned in by its two leads. Robson's terrific portrayal was not a surprise to this viewer; I've been a fan of hers since seeing her decades ago in the great 1940 Errol Flynn swashbuckler "The Sea Hawk," in which Flora's Queen Elizabeth practically steals the show. I had not previously encountered Beryl Reid anywhere before, however, but she was so very good here that I am now inclined to seek out more of her work; her performance in 1968's "The Killing of Sister George" is supposed to be especially good. The acting turns by these two old pros aside, however, "Beast" does not offer too much to the casual viewer. It is never especially scary, or even suspenseful, and although the beast's attacks are somewhat gory, they are shot in such a dark and frenzied manner that the viewer cannot make out much. Composer Tony Macaulay's theme song for the film is eerie and excellent, but much of his incidental music seems out of place, and even non sequitur at times. James Kelly has directed his film in a fairly pedestrian manner, with little style to speak of, and his picture drags woefully in spots. Perhaps the uncut British version of the film, at 101 minutes, would be an improvement, but the 87-minute American cut seems to be missing...something. If ever a picture deserved a loving restoration! As suggested above, the DVD offered for us Yanks is a miserable-looking affair, with a scratchy print, lousy sound and many nighttime scenes rendered almost completely black on the small screen. Seeing "Beast" back when in a theatre must have been a completely different experience; it can only have improved what is, in essence, a highly interesting albeit flawed film. For this viewer, the most interesting aspect of the picture is how our opinion of the two sisters keeps changing as the film unreels. As in 1962's "What Ever Happened to Baby Jane?," our perception of which sister is more rational and which is more batty--which is more sympathetic and which is more to be condemned--is subject to fluctuation as the secret of their history is revealed. In the film's best scene, Ellie does reveal all to a flabbergasted police superintendent, and it is a story both moving and tragic, and fully detailing this most unusual family affair. Having a loving and caring sister is one thing, but heaven forbid that you ever get one like Joyce or Ellie Ballantyne!

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