Posted in: Disc Reviews by Archive Authors on September 5th, 2005
In 19th-Century Edinburgh, medical doctor Timothy Dalton needs bodies in order to further medical science. He avails himself of the services of two scoundrels (Johnathan Pryce and Stephen Rea), who provide him with extremely fresh specimens. Disturbingly fresh, as assistant Julian Sands is quick to realize. Dalton contends that the ends justify the means, even if those means are murder.
The story of murderous grave robbers Burke and Hare has been committed to screen in one form or …nother many times, usually, as is the case here, with the names of the central players changed. The masterpiece remains The Body Snatcher (1945), with Boris Karloff in the title role (and Dylan Thomas’ screenplay, on which The Doctor and the Devils is based, dates from this era), but The Flesh and the Fiends (1960) is another important work. The Doctor and the Devils is from 1985, but looks twenty years older. There is a certain appeal in seeing so guilelessly a retro production, but the Hammer films it apes would have eaten it for breakfast. Everything about the movie is anachronistic, and it is further saddled with the unfortunate sequence of Twiggy performing a tavern song.
The sound is a very active and solid 2.0. The crowd scenes, in particular, are well done and very immersive. Music and dialogue are crisp and clear, and while this isn’t in the league of the best 5.1 tracks, it more than gets the job done.
The print is rather dirty under the credits, but then clears up pretty much completely. There is no grain or visible edge enhancement, the blacks are absolutely superb, and the colours are generally very rich, though there are some instances where the film is a bit on the dark side. Both fullscreen and 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen aspects are provided.
Some trailers. The menu is basic.
Weird seeing an old-fashioned gothic being produced over a decade after the genre had died out. Appealing for that very reason, but unfortunately not very good.
Special Features List