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Lionel Curwin is a character who is mentioned frequently in the 1982 horror film Beast Within. Though he is only seen very briefly, in the form of a hazy memory, his actions are responsible for the story's gruesome chain of events.
Lionel Curwin was one of the foremost citizens of his hometown of Nioba, Mississippi. He had two brothers: Edwin Curwin, who ran the town's newspaper, and his second sibling was the town's judge, Judge Curwin, who was also the hamlet's mayor. Lionel was a mortician by trade and owned Nioba's funeral home, and his nephew, Dexter Ward, served as his assistant. He also had a young cousin named Horace Platt. He was married to a woman several years his junior named Sarah.
According to Sheriff Bill Poole, Lionel was a "son-of-a-bitch" who was despised by almost everyone who knew him. Even the Judge once said, "None of us knew what to do with Lionel." A vindictive and extremely religious man, Lionel believed that all sex, including marital sex, was base and vile.
Many years before the film begins, Lionel finds his wife in bed with a young man named Billy Connors. He flies into a psychotic rage and murders Sarah and then chains Billy in his cellar. After keeping Billy in the basement for days, he opens the door and tells the starving young man: "You still want her? Well now you can have her." He throws his wife's corpse into the cellar, and Billy is forced to devour it to survive. Lionel kept Billy imprisoned for many years, feeding him only the corpses of the people who had been brought to him for burial. He would take the bodies from their coffins, which he would fill with rocks. After Billy had finished eating the dead flesh Lionel would dispose of the bones by burying them in a nearby swamp. No one, not even Dexter, was aware of his actions, as everyone in town simply assumed that Sarah and Billy had run away together. Over the many years Billy became increasingly demented and deformed.
It all came to an end for Lionel one night in 1964, when Billy finally broke his chain. The deranged, beast-like man escaped from the cellar and killed Lionel, then partially ate his corpse. Dexter ultimately discovered both Lionel's body and Billy. The Curwin relatives conspired together to keep what had happened a secret.