Monday, October 24, 2005

The Body Snatcher


(1945)***

No, this isn't Invasion of the Body Snatchers!

In 1831 Edinburgh, Dr. “Toddy” MacFarlane, a surgeon and professor, is delivered a paralyzed little girl. Although he makes it clear that he no longer practices surgery, he agrees to work on the little girl at the behest of John Gray (Boris Karloff), a local cabman who provides MacFarlane with corpses to use for teaching purposes. Although Gray has been robbing graves to provide MacFarlane with the bodies he needs, he soon resorts to outright murder because he has exhausted the graveyard supply. Additionally we learn that Gray has some sort of a hold on MacFarlane, which is not explained until much later in the film. After the little girl fails to benefit from surgery, MacFarlane become increasingly frustrated with his arrangement with Gray and decides to rid himself of Gray’s blackmail once and for all.

This is the last of the Van Lewton horror films and it’s a dandy. Karloff is great as the unctuous, sinister grave robber (you’ll want to reach into your TV and strangle him yourself). Like the other Van Lewton films, a lot of creepy ambience is created on a shoestring budget. The director effectively ratchets up the tension as the film reaches its satisfying climax. Oddly enough, Bela Lugosi is in this film in a bit part, looking fat once again.

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