Burke and Hare (2010)

R  |   |  Comedy, Thriller  |  9 September 2011 (USA)
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Ratings: 6.2/10 from 15,415 users   Metascore: 46/100
Reviews: 59 user | 131 critic | 10 from Metacritic.com

A black comedy about two 19th century grave robbers who find a lucrative business providing cadavers for an Edinburgh medical school.


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Cast overview, first billed only:
Gabrielle Downey ...
Aggrieved Customer
Robert Fyfe ...
Old Donald
Robert Willox ...
Gravediggers' Bouncer


Based on the true story about the famous murderers, 'Burke And Hare' follows the hapless exploits of these two men as they fall into the highly profitable business of providing cadavers for the medical fraternity in Nineteenth Century Edinburgh, then the centre of medical learning. The one thing they were short of was bodies. Written by Anonymous

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis


No Job Too Small. No Body Too Big. No Questions Asked.


Comedy | Thriller

Motion Picture Rating (MPAA)

Rated R for some sexual content, disturbing images and language | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:





Release Date:

9 September 2011 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Burke & Hare  »

Box Office


$10,000,000 (estimated)

Opening Weekend:

£942,894 (UK) (29 October 2010)


$947 (USA) (9 September 2011)

Company Credits

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:


Aspect Ratio:

2.35 : 1
See  »

Did You Know?


The legendary Burke and Hare murders are also known as the West Port murders. The total number of deaths amounted to seventeen. See more »


Two hangings are shown in the film, in the style of a "long drop" designed to break the neck and cause instant death. This style was first introduced in the 1870's by William Marwood as a more humane approach. Before then, and certainly in 1828-1829 when the film was set, the victim was simply suspended by a rope around the neck, and choked to death by suffocation. See more »


Old Joseph: I remember. Old Nosey was there himself. He says, "Stand up, guards. Now, Maitland, now's your time." And over we go, fightin', fightin' the Frogs. Did I ever tell you about the time...
[coughs wetly]
Old Joseph: the time...
Old Joseph: I saw the man, the wee man himself, Napoleon? Aye, it were a treat.
Old Joseph: And that idiotic hat.
See more »

Crazy Credits

This is a true story. Except for the parts that are not. See more »


References Greyfriars Bobby: The True Story of a Dog (1961) See more »


Auprès de Ma Blonde
Performed by Allan Corduner
See more »

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User Reviews

Has its hit and miss moments, but mostly entertaining
1 March 2011 | by (United Kingdom) – See all my reviews

Burke and Hare is not a masterpiece by any stretch of the imagination, but it is not a bad film either or completely deserving of all the panning it got. It is far from talented director John Landis's best film not like Blues Brothers or An American Werewolf in London, but it is not his worst either as is the case with Blues Brothers 2000 and Beverly Hills Cop III.

Does Burke and Hare completely work? No it doesn't. Is it entertaining? On the most part yes, even with the hits and misses. The film to me was never laugh-out-loud hilarious excepting two or three scenes(Jessica Hynes's eureka moment inventing funeral parlours being one), most of the time it was still amusing. In my view, the sight gags were better than the script. The sight gags range from nicely understated such as the pot shots at Wordsworth, Lister and Greyfriars Bobby to crass slapstick such as chamber pot contents being dropped on heads. There is even a sex scene that raised a laugh, decide for yourself whether it is intentional or not, whether it was or not I personally did find it amusing. The script(the smart black humour kind) varies as well from having a good chuckle, raising a smile to where I found myself rather blank faced.

John Landis does do a credible job directing. He mixes contemporary innovation and social issue with ease, and although he doesn't quite make Burke and Hare the dark, smart, hilarious homage to Ealing comedy it strived to be or the throwback to American Werewolf(the comedy and horror elements are decent on their own but have mixed results together), there is evidence of the effort which is what mattered. The character development is very straight forward, that I do agree with, but the cast do make an effort to make us empathise with them, and I think they succeeded there. The Georgian setting is also convincing, the sets are beautifully evoked and I quite liked the costumes and cinematography too.

I do think all the cast have done better before, but I cannot deny this is a great cast. Simon Pegg and Andy Serkis are a well-matched double act. They work very well together, and both give entertaining performances in the process. I also liked seeing Christopher Lee, Ronnie Corbett, Paul Whitehouse(the scene where he is pushed down the stairs is hilarious) and Bill Bailey even if their appearances are rather brief. Isla Fisher(the love story between her and Pegg though is pretty weak and underdeveloped) and Jessica Hynes are alluring and do show at least some flair for comedy, Hynes actually is very funny, and while they should have had more screen time Tom Wilkinson and Tim Curry are suitably antagonistic and compelling. I do agree about the accents being variable, I had little problem with Pegg and Serkis and Wilkinson's was convincing, Curry just about passes, while Fisher's comes and goes and some of the cameos don't quite make it.

In conclusion, entertaining enough if somewhat hit-and-miss. With a longer length, perhaps more tighter pacing and some more care on the accents it could have been more. But the direction, setting and cast convinced me, so I enjoyed it. 7/10 Bethany Cox

23 of 28 people found this review helpful.  Was this review helpful to you?

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Nothing funny about these two sheilamc76
Will this be better than Mel Brooks' film?? dlmorrow1-1
Same plot as 'I sell the dead'? rc_sp160
What a shame..... bigbernarduk
'Outrageously Funny' The_Critical_Eye
Did I imagine this? duckylaw39
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