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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
This film received its initial television presentations in Los Angeles Saturday 5 May 1956 on KHJ (Channel 9) and in Memphis Friday 18 May 1956 on WHBQ (Channel 13); it first aired in Philadelphia Wednesday 29 September 1956 on WFIL (Channel 6), in Altoona Friday 5 October 1956 on WFBG (Channel 10), in Columbus Saturday 3 November 1956 on WLW-C (Channel 4), in Boston Friday 9 November 1956 on WNAC (Channel 7), in San Francisco Sunday 11 November 1956 on KPIX (Channel 5), in Detroit Friday 16 November 1956 on WJBK (Channel 2), and in New York City Saturday 5 January 1957 on WOR (Channel 9). See more »
When MacFarlane and Gray gaze into the mirror and we then see their reflections in a separate shot, the partings in their hair change etc as one would expect on seeing their reflections, but Gray is now sitting on the opposite side of MacFarlane to where his reflection would actually be - i.e. Gray is sitting on MacFarlane's left so would be reflected as sitting on the right of MacFarlane reflection, not reflected still sitting to the left of MacFarlane's reflection like in the movie. The reflections were obviously filmed after a cut and the actor's swapped places in error to film that scene. See more »
Cabman John Gray:
You've no need to be anxious, Meg. MacFarlane has been drunk and away before. He'll be beck in good time. Meanwhile, you have me to keep you company.
I call that no good fortune.
Cabman John Gray:
There was a time, lass, a time when I used to bring the dashing young doctor to your door, but you weren't so uncommon cold to your old friend Gray.
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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 »
Poor Daft Jamie
("Elegiac Lines on the Tragical Murder of Poor Daft Jamie")
Scottish folk song (1829)
Sung by Boris Karloff See more »
Dark and Gloomy
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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