Burke and Hare (2010) Poster


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Among many cultural and historical jokes interwoven in the plot, one occurs when Professor Munro says to Dr. Lister, "your breath is appalling." Although the timeline is somewhat off, with Lister being of a later generation than that portrayed during the events of the film, he was nonetheless the pioneer of using carbolic acid for the sterilization of surgical instruments and cleaning of wounds during the 1860s. This effectively revolutionized surgery and saved the lives of countless patients who would otherwise have died of infection or had to have limbs amputated due to gangrene. He is also who the famous anti-septic mouthwash product Listerine is named after, hence the ironic joke about his breath being appalling.
David Tennant was originally cast as William Hare but had to drop out shortly before filming began because NBC, for whom he had recently shot a TV pilot, declined to release him to shoot the film for fear of scheduling problems if the pilot was picked up early.
Actors Jenny Agutter, David Schofield and John Woodvine rejoin director John Landis after almost 30 years since they first collaborated on An American Werewolf in London (1981).
The legendary Burke and Hare murders are also known as the West Port murders. The total number of deaths amounted to seventeen.
The dog seen in the first Graveyard scene with Burke, Hare and the militia, is a reference to a famous Edinburgh story. Greyfriars Bobby was a Skye Terrier who in 19th-century Edinburgh spent 14 years returning to, and guarding the grave of his owner, John Gray. The movie accurately shows him as being a Skye Terrier and also shows his master's name on the grave he guards, John Gray.
Director John Landis s first feature film in twelve to thirteen years, his previous had been Susan's Plan (1998).
In the West Port area of Edinburgh, the murderers' legacy lives on in a strip club named Burke & Hare.
According to the 'Edinburgh Evening News' of 24 November 2008, Colin Farrell and Ewan McGregor were being touted to play William Hare and William Burke in this film.
An obscure joke occurs early in the movie, when Burke & Hare are unmasked as a pair of confidence men since their "Irish moss" is revealed to be cheese mold - a foolish substitute, since they could've used Scottish moss. But the real point is that such molds really can cure some infections as was claimed, and if Burke & Hare hadn't turned to grave robbing then they just might be hailed as the 19th century discoverers of Penicillin.
Both John Cleese and Dan Aykroyd were rumored for roles at one point.
Screenwriters Nick Moorcroft and Piers Ashworth wrote the film on spec and sold it to the head of Ealing Studios, Barnaby Thompson.
In the scene outside of the university, before the meeting of Monro and Knox, there is a nod to Dan Aykroyd, who was originally rumored to be in the film. As the doctors are walking to the building, they all greet each other in the same fashion as in the "Doctor" scene in Spies Like Us (1985).
The poster of Isla Fisher's character Ginny as Macbeth is very close to a famous photograph of Eva Le Galliennne as Hamlet (also a woman playing an eponymous Shakespearian character who is originally a male). They share the same stance - full body shot, face on, legs planted firmly in the ground - as well as a similar costume in the trousers, boots and cape.
Dr Robert Knox is played in this film by Tom Wilkinson. In real life, his association with the Burke and Hare murders damaged his reputation and ruined his career.


Robert Paynter:  The cinematographer and frequent John Landis collaborator as a "Distinguished Doctor". Paynter died shortly before the release of the film.
Michael Winner:  as a rich person riding in a coach cabin.


The trivia item below may give away important plot points.

The film's closing shot and sequence is a forwards steadicam shot of the real life Edinburgh University Medical Museum culminating in a close shot of the real skeleton of William Burke.

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Goofs | Crazy Credits | Quotes | Alternate Versions | Connections | Soundtracks

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