Halloween 2012 Moviepalooza: Part 6

Up next on our movie tour: The Body Snatcher (1945) starring Boris Karloff. The film also has Bela Lugosi in a lesser role, and this film would mark the last time the two worked together. The movie references Burke, Hare, and Knox, actual historical figures who engaged in murders to provide cadavers for medical study, and is very loosely based on Robert Louis Stevenson’s story of the same name, which is based on those foul deeds. There’s an element of that here as well, as Karloff plays Gray, a bad driver who dabbles on the side in “resurrections” – i.e., grave robbing to provide cadavers to Dr. MacFarlane so he can teach his students about anatomy. Gray and MacFarlane are two sides of the same self-loathing, with MacFarlane wanting to be free of Gray, but Gray telling him he never will be. The film is as much a psychological tussle between the two as it is a telling of the difficulties that medical schools had in getting enough cadavers to teach future doctors their trade. The final fight scene between Gray and MacFarlane really does represent everything that both binds the men together and demonstrate their equivalent hatred of one another, each knowing the other could not survive without the other half. Karloff is superb at inhabiting his Gray with a malevolence that comes through whether he speaks or not, but also shows a deadpan humor that may be overlooked. Lugosi is such a minor presence and clearly is sleepwalking through his few scenes, which is a shame . On a scale of 5, I’d rate this one a 3.5.

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