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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 »
I know you kill people to sell bodies.
Cabman John Gray:
You say you came here of your own account. No-one sent you, no-one knows you're here?
Give me money or I tell the police that you murder the subjects.
Cabman John Gray:
Well, Joseph, you shall have money, why should you not? I don't suppose the great Dr MacFarlane is over lavish with his pay?
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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 »
SPOILER: 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.
One could easily argue, as I surely will attempt to do so, that this film, The Body Snatcher, based on the classic story by Robert Louis Stevenson and produced by the wonderfully creative and inventive producer Val Lewton, is the home of Boris Karloff's best performance. Some will argue that his portrayal of Frankenstein's creature was his greatest role, and I would not argue with that. But his role as Cabman Gray is his best performance as an actor. It gives us a chance to see the real Boris and his entire acting range. He plays with relish a character wicked as can be , yet full of contradictions. This villainous rogue that steals bodies from graves and then creates bodies through murder is given an amiable side. He is the most interesting character in the story. He is the core of the story, and it is all due to Karloff's wonderful and witty portrayal. The story is excellent as our the other actors in the film, most notably Henry Daniell as the doctor abused and tormented by Karloff and past secrets. Although this was the last film to have both Karloff and Lugosi, it is a lopsided affair as Lugosi is given very little screen time and an even smaller role as a blackmailing servant. The best scene with both of them is the murder scene of Lugosi's character, and it is one last glimpse of the two great boogeymen sharing the screen once more together. Outstanding film, competent direction, and excellent acting make this film one of the better horror films of the 40s and one of Karloff's finest moments on the screen period.
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