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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
The stock footage that opens the film does not actually depict Edinburgh, Scotland. It was in fact footage of California, where this movie was filmed. See more »
The scene in the pub right after it's announced that MacFarlane sold Gray's horse and buggy for a mere four pounds and the new owner is embarrassed into buying him a drink. Right after the barmaid goes to fetch him one, Fettes enters the pub to talk to the Doctor. When the barmaid returns, she has two drinks. Yet she had no indication that MacFarlane was meeting anyone, and the doctor didn't know Fettes was looking for him. See more »
Closing credits epilogue: "It is through error that man tries and rises. It is through tragedy he learns. All the roads of learning begin in darkness and go out into the light" Hippocrates of Cos See more »
The 4-Front UK video, released in 1998, was the first time (including TV screenings) the The Body Snatcher had ever been shown uncut in the UK. Previous versions were missing nearly 7 minutes of footage cut by the BBFC back in 1946. The cuts were as follows:
all references to to the names Burke & Hare were removed from dialogue scenes. This includes the scene just before Karloff kills Lugosi in which he explains how he "Burked them" and sings a little song and also trims to a dialogue scene near the end in which Henry Daniels' mistress explains to the young hero Daniels' sordid past. At least three other small cuts in scenes when characters refer to the names Burke and Hare.
the scene in which Karloff kills Lugosi was missing several shots of Karloff smothering Lugosi's mouth with his hand. A later shot of Lugosi dead in a barrel of water also cut.
an entire dialogue scene was removed in which Karloff takes a body to the doctor and demands his money. In the cut version you only see Karloff taking the body in. The uncut version has a whole additional exchange between Karloff and Daniell's assistant. The assistant accuses Karloff of murdering the person and Karloff (being very menacing) says he is mistaken and asks for his money which the assistant reluctantly gives him - the following scene when the assistant voices his suspicions to Daniell the next day is in the cut print.
the ending is abridged to removed various shots of Karloff's naked torso in a death grip round Daniell. In the cut print you hardly see Karloff at all.
In 1831, in Edinburgh, the prominent doctor and professor Dr. Wolfe 'Toddy' MacFarlane (Henry Daniell) buys corpses for his studies and classes of anatomy from the notorious cabman John Gray (Boris Karloff), who is also a body snatcher. When his talented student Donald Fettes (Russell Wade) tells that he will quit medical school since his family cannot afford to support him, MacFarlane hires him as his assistant to permit Fettes to proceed his studies. Fettes meets a little girl that cannot walk anymore due to a coach accident, and he tries to convince Dr. MacFarlane to operate her but the doctor is reluctant. Soon Fettes discovers that Dr. MacFarlane has a secret from his past and Gray blackmails him. When Fettes learns how Gray obtains the corpses for Dr. MacFarlane, he has an inner conflict and does not want to continue as Dr. MacFarlane's protégée. But isn't it too late?
"The Body Snatcher" is a dark and gloomy horror tale with a creepy story about ethic in medicine, or how far a doctor should go in his researches. Boris Karloff has a magnificent performance, maybe the best I have ever seen of this actor. The direction of Robert Wise is sharp and the cinematography in black and white is impressive. My vote is seven.
Title (Brazil): "O Túmulo Vazio" ("The Empty Grave")
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