Saturday, November 8, 2014

THE DOCTOR AND THE DEVILS (1985) Blu-ray Review

The Doctor and the Devils (1985) d. Freddie Francis (UK)

This not-bad dramatization of the notorious Burke and Hare murders (with the names changed to protect. . .I'm not sure who) covers little new ground and, more significantly, fails to capture the haunting immorality of the crimes and those complicit in them. As the Dr. Knox character (here called Dr. Rock), Timothy Dalton is righteously indignant at the priggish lawmakers thwarting scientific progress, but even a hint of moral quandary as he knowingly turns a blind eye – allowing thuggish grave robbers-cum-murderers Fallon and Broom (Jonathan Pryce and Stephen Rea) to keep providing illegal cadavers for dissection – would have gone a long way.

Despite handsome production values and a fine cast of British thespians that includes Sian Phillips, Patrick Stewart, Julian Sands, Beryl Reid, and Twiggy (don’t laugh, she’s quite good), this is hardly an improvement over John Gilling’s The Flesh and the Fiends or (Robert Wise’s The Body Snatcher, for that matter). Still, for those unfamiliar with the Burke and Hare story or who have only seen John Landis' comedic version starring Simon Pegg and Andy Serkis, this isn't a bad place to start.

The extras, which at times are more engaging than the film itself, include an informative audio commentary track from the always reliable Steve Haberman, and interviews with executive producer Mel Brooks (yes, that Mel Brooks), producer Jonathan Sanger and former Brooksline development executive Randy Auerbach.

The Doctor and the Devils is now available on Blu-ray from Shout! Factory and can be ordered HERE.

--Aaron Christensen, HorrorHound Magazine

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