Saturday, March 23, 2019

THE BODY SNATCHER (1945) Blu-ray review

The Body Snatcher (1945) d. Robert Wise (USA) (78 min)

Arguably Boris Karloff’s finest onscreen performance, this is another great-looking piece of atmospheric horror from producer Val Lewton. Karloff’s Cabman Gray, oozing ill-intentions and menace while remaining innately likeable, emerges as one of the most intriguing characters in film, regardless of genre. Gray has been employed as a grave robber to provide cadavers for Dr. Wolfe “Toddy” MacFarlane (Henry Daniell) to use at his medical institute. When there are too few corpses to satisfy demands, Gray goes about supplying them through “other means.”

Philip MacDonald and Lewton (as Carlos Keith) do a terrific job adapting Robert Louis Stevenson’s story (inspired by the real-life exploits of “resurrectionists” and murderers Burke and Hare). Future Oscar-winner Wise (The Haunting, The Curse of the Cat People) directs with a sure hand, leaving much of the violence offscreen or in the shadows, allowing our imagination to fill in the ghoulish blanks. The street singer sequence, in particular, is a wonder to behold.

Bela Lugosi appears in a small role (despite his prominent billing) as Daniell’s servant Joseph, and his brief scene opposite Karloff is startling yet strangely moving. The Body Snatcher marked the eighth and final time that the two icons of horror would appear onscreen together. For his part, Daniell proves a worthy foil to Karloff, and the mounting power struggle between them is electrifying to watch, while the moving, sensitive scenes between his servant/wife Meg (Edith Atwater) show the heart beneath the icy professional exterior.


NEW 4K scan of the original camera negative

NEW “You’ll Never Get Rid of Me: Resurrecting The Body Snatcher” featurette with author Gregory Mank (12 min)

Audio Commentary with director Robert Wise (first 48 min, essentially a pre-recorded interview that, while it does not correspond to the onscreen action, is extremely informative and relates many stories about Lewton, the two men's working relationship over the years, and the film proper) and writer/historian Steve Haberman (who takes over for the final 30 min, filling in any blanks Wise might have left out and pointing out a variety of fun facts during film's third act)

Shadows In The Dark: The Val Lewton Legacy (53 min)

Still Galleries – Posters, Lobby Cards, Movie Stills

The Body Snatcher is available now on Blu-ray from Shout! Factory and can be ordered HERE:


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