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In an attempt to clean up the soundtrack, which is rather scratchy and noisy, a digital audio remastering was done. The problem with this remastering is that between every line of dialog (where the background soundtrack noise would be audible) has now been reduced to absolute silence. The effect is jarring when you watch the movie as the dialog appears to start and stop. It is bad enough when listening via regular TV speakers but when run through an amplified system it becomes unnerving. Additionally, when there is background music in these segments between dialogue the music sounds incredibly muted. The same problem exists on Alpha Video's companion DVD "Sweeney Tood" so beware. These movies are 70+ years old and some leniency must be allowed when viewing these old prints. In this case, those who transfer these items to digital should have left well enough alone.
Knowing that this movie is Tod Slaughter's take on the tale of Burke and Hare promises a great deal more than this tawdry, cheap little bore could possibly deliver. It's shot on cramped, ugly sets, the story moves in fits and starts, it's endlessly talky and never gives Slaughter a chance to cut loose in his grand style. The movies he made in the 1930s are all entertaining and, for the tolerant, enjoyable and watchable even today. But if you like those, you can safely skip this one. Slaughter is given few chances to emote in his gloriously florid style; instead, he's handed reams of dull lines to read, as is everyone else. He has a few moments, but not many; more are provided by Aubrey Woods as Jamie with the barrow.
This film is not at all "under one hour of running time", I suspect that
some US video collectors saw only a cut version. The original running
in Great-Britain - was 79 mins (7005 feet). It was released in the USA (as
"Horror Maniacs") in the early Fifties, as part of a double-bill with
another Tod Slaughter film ("The Curse of the Wraydons", renamed
"Strangler's Morgue"), cut to 72 mins. And more recently, an American
company "offered" a totally butchered version, reduced to 53 mins!
Happily enough, the complete 79 mins version is now available from some video companies.
Under an hour in length, this film about two bodysnatchers named Wally Hart and Mr. Moore(obviously meant to be Burke and Hare)showcases the immense talent of British ham Tod Slaughter, one of the truly forgotten kings of horror. It is weak in plot development, and it has little action, but the film does a good job creating the atmosphere of the poor and wicked in Edinburgh during a time when bodies were needed for medical use. A lot more could have been done with the film, but taken as it is, it is entertaining just as a vehicle in which to see Tod Slaughter cackle and gesture about. It is not Slaughter's best, however, but he does have moments as an amoral ressurectionist who kills for money with no compunction or moral barrier at all. The rest of the cast is average at best, and the film suffers from a very evident low budget. This was one of Slaughter's last "big" films. It is a shame that he was never given a budget for a film that would have made him more popular with audiences today. So few people have seen his films, and this film seems to be somewhat obscure. I recommend the film based on his presence(not performance).
Greed of William Hart, The (1948)
* 1/2 (out of 4)
Tod Slaughter, Britain's biggest horror star, makes one of his final appearances in this film also known as Horror Maniacs. The history behind the film is actually a lot more interesting than the film itself. This was originally called The Crimes of Burke and Hare with those two names used in the film. However, the British censors objected and a relative of Hare threatened to sue so they had to dub the names, which cost so much money that the producer's couldn't afford a music score. As for the film, it's a pretty dull take on the Burke and Hare story with Slaughter very dry up until the end when he goes so over the top that you can't help but laugh. Clearly this was meant to challenge The Body Snatcher but doesn't come close.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
A movie so poorly made that it seems 20 years older than it is, "Horror
Maniacs" (or "The Greed of William Hart") is a creaky antique that
makes its subject matter deadly dull even if the actual history behind
its connection with real life events is fascinatingly macabre. With
names changed due to lawsuits from family members of the characters it
portrays, a lot of the details are obviously missing, mainly because
the print available is approximately 25 minutes short of the original
running time. The editing out of the character's real life names is so
badly dubbed that what was looped in sounds louder than the rest of the
The difference between this and other Tod Slaughter films is that his earlier films gave a historical feeling of what the old gaslight theaters of the late 1800's and early 1900's must have been like with the melodramatic thrillers that were popular during this era. This one isn't even an interesting account of the Burke and Hare case of the 1820's in Edinburgh. Slaughter plays his character as if he was mentally retarded and he seems relatively normal when compared to his nefarious partner played by Henry Oscar. Aubrey Woods gives an interesting performance as the very sensitive Jamie Wilson, a rather effeminate young man who shows fear at the very mention of people disappearing in the area where he lives. There is really no element of terror here which makes the insinuations of what the two grave robbers (who also kill for profit) all the less menacing.
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