“I think we’re being supplied with the victims of murder.”
In 19th century Edinburgh, an anatomy doctor (Timothy Dalton) procures corpses from a pair of grave diggers (Jonathan Pryce and Stephen Rea) who turn out to be opportunistic murderers. Meanwhile, Dalton’s assistant (Julian Sands) falls in love with a prostitute (Twiggy) who may be next in line for murdering.
Genres, Themes, Actors, and Directors:
- Historical Drama
- Mad Doctors and Scientists
- Serial Killers
Freddie Francis directed this re-telling of the infamous Burke and Hare murders, probably best known to film fanatics through Val Lewton’s much-superior The Body Snatcher (1945), co-starring Boris Karloff and Bela Lugosi. Unfortunately, there’s not much new to be told or explored in this iteration, which faithfully recreates the seediness of the era but fails to hold our interest on anything other than a surface level. Pryce and Rea are alcoholic psychopaths simply out to exploit those even less fortunate than themselves:
… while Sands’ attraction to Twiggy is clearly doomed from the get-go:
… and we don’t feel much sympathy for Dalton’s “science above all else” lecturer who is willing to overlook some pretty obvious ethical challenges in his quest for “fresh” bodies to study.
You can skip this one.
Redeeming Qualities and Moments:
- Fine historical sets and atmospheric cinematography
No. Listed as a Cult Movie in the back of Peary’s book.