In addition to the usual reviews and comments you would find on a horror movie blog, this is also a document of the wonderfully vast horror movie section of the video store I worked at in my youth.

Monday, February 26, 2024

Horror Movie Guide: The Body Snatcher

As it turns out, I was unable to track down the 1972 version of Bluebeard so I'll have to circle back to that at a later date. In its stead, I moved onto Robert Wise's 1945 film The Body Snatcher. I'd never heard of it before reading of it in the Guide, but I had a good feeling.

In 1830's Edinburgh, a doctor (Henry Daniell) and his new assistant (Russell Wade) look to shady cabman John Gray (Boris Karloff) to supply them with increasingly fresh cadavers for their medical experiments.

Yeah, The Body Snatcher was a delight. I'm surprised people don't talk about this one more, because it is a literal Venn diagram of silver screen horror movie greats. Wise, directing Karloff and Bela Lugosi in a Val Lewton-produced RKO picture based on Robert Louis Stephenson? I mean, come on!

As I've said before, Karloff's filmography features large in The Guide and it seems with each title I say 'oh was my fave Boris performance!'. Well, again I say, THIS one was tops. He's so deliciously evil as John Gray. I was sad to see Lugosi in a smaller part (apparently due to his health) but the scene him and Karloff last share together was a great one. 

Boris Karloff & Bela Lugosi in The Body Snatcher

I was initially disappointed that Lugosi didn't play the doctor, until I saw Daniell in action. He's terrific and his theatrical training comes out right away. And then there's Wade, who's striking resemblance to Judge Reinhold was almost distracting..

In addition to the strong cast, the atmosphere is on point. Using sets from RKO's production of The Hunchback of Notre Dame, Wise employs shadow as well as he ever did (wow, just realizing how long and storied a career Wise actually had) and that prolonged shot in the fog that ends with the street urchin's voice being cut off was *chef's kiss*. 

Though they naturally don't show anything onscreen and the fight scenes are rudimentary, Wise doesn't give a fuck, he'll off anyone or anything. Oh, and I loved that Val was still up to his old tricks, swapping out Cat People's Lewton Bus, for a Lewton Horse

The Body Snatcher was a joy throughout, and may even best Bedlam (another Val Lewton RKO picture) in the B&W horrors I've experienced while going through the Guide. Naturally, they agreed with me, maybe the first four star they've awarded so far.

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