1972's Burke and Hare is a schizophrenic British exploitation film that can't seem to make up its mind whether it's a comedy about the infamous suppliers of fresh - very fresh - cadavers to 19th Century Scottish surgeons or a sex comedy set in a brothel where a young medical student (Robin Tucker) falls in love with the new girl (Francoise Pascal), a kind of Confessions of a Resurrectionist or Carry On Snatching. It takes ages for the two plot strands to collide, giving the feeling of producer Guido Cohen cutting his losses and combining two half-completed scripts and topping it off with a pre-Chas'n'Dave pub singalong title song from The Scaffold ("They'll find you - they're behind you!/Take care, they're out to rape you/They're out to drape you/With white"). Most of Cohen's movies were quota quickies, the kind of uninspired fare aimed at the bottom half of a double-bill to fulfil UK cinemas' legal obligation to show a set percentage of British films each year, and while Burke and Hare was the lead attraction this time round and has somewhat more decent production values than you'd expect despite the obviously low budget, it still has the feel of something you sit through while you're waiting for the picture you really came to see start.
Derren Nesbitt, the only Thunderbird puppet to make a go of a live-action career before unfortunately mistaking his wife for a whipping post made him unemployable outside of soft porn for much of the 70s, and Glynn `Dave the barman off of Minder' Edwards are the two Irish immigrants in Edinburgh who stumble accidentally into the body selling business when a lodger dies without paying his rent and no-one seems interested in claiming his body. With the prospect of £8 a fresh corpse - £10 in the summer when they go off faster - from Harry Andrews' Dr Knox as incentive, they're soon helping others on their way with a little urging from their wives while the good doctor turns his blind eye to the obvious signs of violence on his latest specimens. But the film never really plays up either the horror or the bawdy comedy, the latter, in true British sex comedy tradition, largely consisting of ageing British bit players briefly seen making a silly ass of themselves with some unfortunate topless starlet: even the big `sex' scene, a threesome with Nesbitt, Pascal and Hammer vamp Yutte Stensgaard, comes down to running around the bedroom topless while giggling. Not much of a swansong for director Vernon Sewell, a one-time alumni of Michael Powell films, it chugs alone in its vaguely watchable but unmemorable way, not the worst retelling of its villains' misdeeds but a very long way from the best, something only British horror or sex comedy completists really need to see.
Redemption's Region A-locked Blu-ray release offers a much better widescreen transfer than the shoddy UK DVD, though it's not without its faults. Extras are limited to a brief interview with Francoise Pascal, who sportingly agrees with one critics comment that she was more convincing as a corpse than alive, a 12-minute featurette with an Australian goth with a PHD talking about corpses in movies and the original trailer, albeit missing the original captions.