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The Flesh and the Fiends (1960)

In 1828 Scotland, Edinburgh surgeon Dr. Knox does medical research on cadavers he buys from murderers Burke and Hare, without questioning the unethical procurement methods.


John Gilling


John Gilling (original story), John Gilling (screenplay) | 1 more credit »




Cast overview, first billed only:
Peter Cushing ... Dr. Robert Knox
June Laverick ... Martha Knox
Donald Pleasence ... William Hare
George Rose ... William Burke
Renee Houston ... Helen Burke
Dermot Walsh ... Dr. Geoffrey Mitchell
Billie Whitelaw ... Mary Patterson
John Cairney ... Chris Jackson
Melvyn Hayes ... Daft Jamie
June Powell June Powell ... Maggie O'Hara
Andrew Faulds ... Inspector McCulloch
Philip Leaver ... Dr. Elliott
George Woodbridge ... Dr. Ferguson
Garard Green Garard Green ... Dr. Andrews
Esma Cannon ... Aggie


Edinburgh surgeon Dr. Robert Knox requires cadavers for his research into the functioning of the human body; local ne'er-do-wells Burke and Hare find ways to provide him with fresh specimens... Written by Mark Doran <za13@dial.pipex.com>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


MURDER was their business! See more »


Crime | Drama | Horror


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Parents Guide:

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Did You Know?


The death metal band Exhumed based their 2017 album Death Revenge off of this film, according to Ross Sewage (and by extension, The Hare and Burke murders). See more »


In his opening monologue, Dr. Knox Peter Cushing states the human body has 260 bones. It has 206. See more »


Dr. Geoffrey Mitchell: We are students of Hippocrates, but some of us are hypocrites.
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Crazy Credits

The Dyaliscope logo in the main titles misspells the widescreen process as "Dylascope". See more »

Alternate Versions

The Continental version included on the Image DVD contains alternate topless takes of clothed scenes in the UK theatrical release and also restores some cuts for violence that were made by the BBFC. The differences are as follows:
  • In a tavern scene with Burke and Hare, a female extra allows her blouse to slip revealing her breasts while B&H are talking (in the UK print the blouse doesn't slip)
  • When Billie Whitelaw takes John Cairney up to her room she has a brief conversation at the foot of the stairs with a woman by an open door. In the UK print this woman is clothed - In the continental print her breasts are exposed.
  • The murder of the old woman is slightly differently edited and more explicit in the Continental print (additional close-ups of her being smothered by Hare's hand).
  • When Cairney goes into the brothel and confronts Whitelaw various of the extras are topless in the continental version (but clothed in the UK print). The Continental print also features a couple of unique shots preceding this of topless revelry.
  • The murder of Daft Jamie is slightly extended and more violent
  • The Continental version has a close-up of Burke's face when he is hanged which is missing from the UK print (presumably a BBFC cut).
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Spun-off from The Body Snatcher (1945) See more »

User Reviews

Any bodies for sale?
17 July 2003 | by macabro357See all my reviews

(aka: MANIA)

This is sort of a variation of the Val Lewton film, THE BODY SNATCHER (1945) starring Boris Karloff with the original story written by Robert Louis Stevenson.

This version is quite good (although I still prefer the earlier film) with an effectively creepy atmosphere that has the look of a Hammer flick, even though Hammer Studios didn't participate in this one.

Peter Cushing plays a medical professor who employs grave robbers (Donald Pleasance and George Rose) in order to steal freshly buried corpses for his medical anatomy classes. The robbers get greedy for more money so they start killing people in order to supply more fresh corpses. At first it's done without the doctor's knowledge, but then when some evidence turns up casting doubt upon the whole affair, he turns a blind eye about it and doesn't seem to care.

We all know justice prevails in the end although I thought the last minute of the film where Cushing restores faith in his students, looked a little too down-pat to me. But only the lower classes suffer the consequences while the upper class gets off scot-free, right?

The Image DVD has both the censored UK version and the Continental version that contains scenes of barmaids with their tops slipping down exposing their breasts. You can also tell because the quality of these deleted scenes is grainer that the film as a whole. I guess they needed something racier for the continental audiences to watch, although Billie Whitelaw gets to keep her top on. Bummer.

The widescreen b/w print is in fair condition with some bad splices and flaking in some scenes, but it's a vast improvement over the old Sinister Cinema VHS tape that was floating around a few years back. Other extras include posters and stills.

6 out of 10

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Release Date:

4 November 1960 (West Germany) See more »

Also Known As:

Mania See more »

Company Credits

Production Co:

Triad Productions See more »
Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs


(uncut) | (cut) | (re-release: The Fiendish Ghouls)

Sound Mix:

Mono (Westrex)

Aspect Ratio:

2.35 : 1
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