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*** This review may contain spoilers ***
It's only fitting that before the series ended, Thriller got in a story
that paid tribute to one of Boris Karloff's seminal film roles, and one
of my favorites, that of Cabman Gray in 1945's "The Body Snatcher".
That might have been his best characterization ever, notwithstanding
his iconic achievements as Frankenstein and The Mummy. Karloff doesn't
appear in this episode, serving only in his regular duty as host of the
show, but no Karloff fan can miss the connection.
The villains of the piece here are a couple of body snatchers, actually murderers going by Grant and Paterson. By now, I've probably seen John Anderson more than any other actor in a whole slew of films, usually Westerns, in which he always does a credible job. His partner in crime was certainly a surprise for me to see here, George Kennedy as a hunchback sort of a dimwit who did most of the dirty work. With no scruples at all, this pair killed for convenience and money, and allowed their greed to command increasing tribute for the bodies they provided to anatomy professor Dr. Marcus Graham (Carl Benton Reid).
Now I can't imagine that the demand for cadavers could have been so great that there would have been more than a couple of entrepreneurs like Grant and Paterson operating on behalf of a local academy, but there you'd be wrong. That's actually what provided the twist in this morbid little tale as the rest of the body snatcher guild brought down Grant before he could give them all a bad name. Which made me wonder, how much is a body snatcher's body worth?
John Anderson & George Kennedy play Jacob Grant & John Paterson, two murderous body snatchers in Victorian England who are not above murdering any "innocent bystanders" when regular grave robbing dries up. They sell the bodies to a medical doctor who needs them for his experiments in class, but the morality of subverting the law by committing these illegal acts is much debated, as fate catches up with both Grant & Paterson... Oddly ineffectual re-telling of the familiar true life story of Burke & Hare has all the right ingredients but still comes out flat. Watch "The Body Snatcher"(1945) instead, or even "Night Gallery", which did a better version of this story called 'Deliveries In The Rear'.
This involves a subculture of Victorian England. Apparently, there was practically a body snatcher's union. They dug up graves and stole the dead to be passed on to medical schools for dissection. However, the bodies were supposed to be dead by violence or natural causes. A couple of really bad dudes do their own killing and then sell the bodies. We are witness to some of the murders. A young man and his disinherited wife find refuge in the home of one of these guys. He is ugly and abusive and has a mentally handicapped partner. The young man is looking for work but times are tough and even when he finds out what these guys are doing, he wants to look the other way. When it comes to self preservation, the young woman is one of the stupidest characters I've ever seen. A really weak episode of Thriller.
An extremely weak entry (no.65, possibly produced by Hubbell Robinson rather than regular producer Willam Frye), this is merely an ultra low budget take on the 19th century story of Burke and Hare, who murdered derelicts and prostitutes and sold their corpses to the medical academy of Doctor Knox (Boris Karloff himself mined this territory in 1945's superb "The Body Snatcher"). Carl Benton Reid plays the doctor (here named Marcus Graham), while the killers are called Jacob Grant (John Anderson) and John Paterson (George Kennedy). Anderson, perhaps best known as the "high pressured" car salesman in 1960's "Psycho," has the showy part, while Kennedy is a one-dimensional disappointment as the dimwitted accomplice. The young hero is played by Steve Terrell (1957's "Invasion of the Saucer Men"), Diki Lerner makes his second memorable appearance on THRILLER (the first was the dummy Hans in episode 41 "The Weird Tailor"), and there is an unbilled silent bit from Harry Wilson, former stand-in for Wallace Beery (and previously seen as a wax figure in "Waxworks"), perhaps best known to genre buffs as the title creature in 1958's "Frankenstein's Daughter." In 1964, THE ALFRED HITCHCOCK HOUR had equally mediocre results with their take on Burke and Hare, "The McGregor Affair."
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