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In Edinburgh in 1831, Dr. Wolfe MacFarlane runs a medical school where Donald Fettes is a student. Fettes is interested in helping a young girl who has lost the use of her legs. He is certain that MacFarlane's surgical skills could be put to great use but he is reluctant to do so. The good Dr. MacFarlane has a secret that soon becomes all too obvious to young Fettes, who has only recently been promoted as his assistant: he has been paying a local cabbie, John Gray, to supply him with dead bodies for anatomical research. Gray constantly harasses MacFarlane and clearly has a hold over him dating to a famous trial many years before where Gray refused to identify the man for whom he was robbing graves. Fettes isn't aware of any of this but soon realizes exactly how Gray obtains the bodies they use in their anatomy classes.Written by
Although based on a fictional short story by Robert Louis Stevenson, the author came up with the idea from actual events occurring in 19th century England and Scotland, particularly those of grave robbers Burke and Hare. See more »
At the very beginning, they show a castle during the credits, then "In Edinburgh In 1831-" then show a closer up of the same castle and a horse and carriage, and you can clearly see two or three automobiles parked next to the castle. See more »
Mrs. Mary McBride:
He'll not leave the grave - not since Wednesday last when we buried the lad.
Your son, ma'am? He must have been a fine boy for the wee dog to love him so.
Mrs. Mary McBride:
A great kind lad he was - gentle with all things like Robbie. Now I can't get the dog to leave here. Perhaps it is for the best. I've not money enough to afford a grave watcher.
Not much danger here, ma'am, I wouldn't think - right here in the heart of Edinburgh.
Mrs. Mary McBride:
They're uncommon bold, the grave robbers - and the daft doctors who drive them ...
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Opening credits prologue: In Edinburgh, in 1831- See more »
Five cuts were made by the British censors on its initial release, mainly references to Burke and Hare, the original bodysnatchers. This cut print has been the only one available in the UK until 1998, when a complete version appeared on the budget video label 4-Front. See more »
Val Lewton has produced some of the most important horror classics of all time. His collaborations with the great Jacques Tourneur are the most noteworthy in his filmography, but some of the others are of note also. Like this one for example. The Body Snatcher is a psychological horror film, a study of guilt, and an expose on how people sometimes have to do bad things in order to do good, even though those bad deeds may well consume them. This is shown through the story of Wolfe MacFarlane, a doctor and teacher of medicine that employs cabbie John Gray to steal corpses from the local cemetery so that he can use them to show his students how to operate on a patient. However, this arrangement has put the cabbie/gravedigger in a position of power over the upper class doctor, and that is something that John Gray intends to capitalise on...
Boris Karloff stars as the grave digging John Gray, and does an absolutely excellent job with it. Karloff has to prove nothing to nobody after his portrayal of Frankenstein's monster, but his embodiment of exactly what you would expect a grave robbing, amoral lower class man to be like is right on cue. Fellow legend Bela Lugosi makes a welcome, if brief appearance also and the other lead role is taken by Henry Daniell. I haven't seen this man before...well, I didn't think I had - he's actually been in many well-respected classics including The Philadelphia Story and The Great Dictator. He does a great job as the lead; his performance bodes well with the film, and just like Karloff he's very believable in his role. The real star of the show, however, is the lush black and white cinematography which capture's the movie's many beautiful settings. Val Lewton has become famous for capturing this sort of atmosphere, and The Body Snatcher is one of the films that does it best.
The use of 'less is more' is right on cue in this film, and there is one sequence in particular involving Boris Karloff, a dark alley and a street singer that will be of particular note to film fans. In short; The Body Snatcher is a great horror film, and one that anyone who considers themselves a fan of great horror will not want to miss!
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