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The Body Snatcher Blu-ray Review


Boris Karloff!

Set in Edinburgh in the year 1831, the Val Lewton produced “The Body Snatcher” is a horror tale that revolves around a cold and shady Doctor/teacher Wolfe Toddy MacFarlane, his new kind hearted assistant Donald Fettes, a murderous creepy stagecoach driver (Mr. Gray), a mother seeking treatment for her paralyzed daughter, a snooping assistant of McFarlane (Joseph), and grave robbing. How does this all mesh together? That would be spoiling the story.

1945’s “The Body Snatcher” is a film I had not seen before which is odd considering how much of a classic horror fan I am. I’m glad I got the chance to review this movie based on the Robert Louis Stevenson story, however, as it’s quite a gem. While the central storyline is an involving character centric tale about morality, science, progress, and death, it is Boris Karloff’s role as John Gray that brings this movie to another level. Outside of his career defining work in the Universal Monsters series, this is easily one of his best acting performances. He manages to make this character so utterly disturbing and captivating all at once. He steals the entire movie and looms large over it all.

The supporting performances also make an impression here. Despite having a limited role, Bela Lugosi shines. He even gets to share the screen with Karloff which was nice to see. Russell Wade may not have appeared in many films, but he fits the role of Fettes to a T. Henry Daniell is excellent as the immoral Dr. MacFarlane. His tense scenes with Karloff really light up the screen as it were.

When it comes to directors, Robert Wise doesn’t get nearly enough credit for his work. The director had series range in that he did musicals (“West Side Story” and “The Sound of Music”), sci-fi (“The Day The Earth Stood Still” and “Star Trek: The Motion Picture”) and horror with “The Body Snatcher.” His work here is predictably noteworthy. Not only does he manage to make things that happen off screen haunting to the viewer, but his direction of conversational scenes (namely with Daniell and Karloff) are gripping.


Presentation: 1.33:1 1080p. How does it look? The disc (which boasts a 4K scan of the original negative) offers up an impressive transfer of the B&W film.

Audio Track: Mono DTS-HD MA. How does it sound? A soft, but adequate track.

* A poster and lobby card still gallery along with another still gallery
* “You’ll Never Get Rid Of Me: Resurrecting The Body Snatchers”- A 12 minute appreciation and analysis of the movie by author Gregory William Mank.
* “Shadows In The Dark: The Val Lewton Legacy”- A 53 minute documentary about the legendary horror film producer.
* An informative commentary by Robert Wise and film historian Steve Haberman. Wise appears in the first half of the commentary while Haberman pops up around the 48 minute mark.

March 12, 2019 - Posted by | Blu-Ray review | , , , , , , ,

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