16 of 16 people found the following review helpful
This review is from: Body Snatcher [DVD] (DVD)
I first watched this film almost 50 years ago and it scared the pants off me. I have never forgotten the experience, still evoked by repeat viewings, although I am now on the sofa rather than behind and have graduated into long trousers (bicycle clips optional). Based on a Burke and Hare theme from Robert Louis Stevenson's story, producer Val Lewton has created a superb film of gruesome terror with an impeccable cast. Dr 'Toddy' MacFarlane (Henry Daniell) is an eminent surgeon- anatomist and researcher in a medical school in 1830s Edinburgh. He is assisted by his student protege Donald Fettes (Russell Wade). He needs cadavers for his knowledge to progress, the fresher the better rather than stiff. There is a shortage of this material.He pays an unscrupulous cabman,John Gray (Boris Karloff) to supply the dead bodies. With the upsurge in body snatching,graveyards are guarded and Gray compensates for this by selecting and murdering victims for MacFarlane. MacFarlane finds out but Gray knows of the doctor's past misdemeanours giving him the upper hand when MacFarlane tries to bribe him to leave Edinburgh (he refuses). Fettes eventually realises where the material for his dissection classes is coming from and is implored to leave the school before fate befalls him. Macfarlane's servant-janitor, the shifty Joseph (Bela Lugosi) quietly eavesdrops on the daily events and duly tells Gray "I know you kill people to sell bodies", making the mistake of attempting to blackmail Gray. The frustrations of MacFarlane with the perverse Gray lead to a memorable, inevitable clash and film climax.
Authentically shot under Robert Wise's direction, the film depicts a symbiotic relationship between two characters who are motivated by their individual needs.
Boris Karloff,although not a 'monster' as such, is palpably menacing, drifting between the daylight cabman and the foggy shadowy Scottish night producing an atmospheric mesmerising effect. Behind his soft voice is a villainous, menacing stare real enough to frighten all and sundry. Henry Daniell's doctor is played convincingly as a man with conflicting interests of his work with the necessity of dealing with a "crawling graveyard rat" who is like "a cancer" (Karloff) who he knows is vindictive. Their plights may be dissimilar but are brought together by circumstance. Lugosi's part is small but he adds to the feeling of creepiness especially on screen with Karloff (the last time they appeared together).
This,to me, is psychological horror as good as it gets. Moral issues and humanity may be set in the script and performances but ultimately this is a gripping scary movie of 5 star quality. Unforgettable.
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Showing 1-3 of 3 posts in this discussion
Initial post: 8 Oct 2011 15:38:12 BDT
Mr. A. Walker says:
1930s not 1930's - presumably you mean the dacade not just one year, i.e. 1930. It is a common error
In reply to an earlier post on 9 Oct 2011 14:56:12 BDT
Last edited by the author on 9 Oct 2011 20:09:30 BDT
Thanks. Meant 1830s not 1930s decade.
Posted on 8 Nov 2011 13:57:32 GMT
I have not seen this but 'Flesh and the Fiends', with Peter Cushing and Donald Plesance is marvellous.Not a tongue in cheek hammy horror, a genuinely good film. You can get it on Amazon its got the tame U.S. version on it as well as the uncut continental version.
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