The Devil You Say --
azindn | Arizona, USA | 01/05/2000
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Based on a true story, The Doctor and the Devils present several fine performances by outstanding actors including Timothy Dalton, Patrick Stewart, Jonathan Pryce, Stephen Rea, and Julian Sands. Nineteenth century medicine for one forward thinking physician, Dr. Roc (Dalton), was the fight to teach medicine as science that relied on empirical fact and first hand observation, not folk lore and religious philosophy. His primary source was fresh cadavers, the fresher the better. Alas, the Victorian mind-set was in the dark ages and regulated the number of cadaver's faculty used for teaching. Into the situation stumble two fiends (Price and Rea) who recognize a quick way to earn money for cheap gin and the local harlot (Twiggy, miscast but not a bad performance) was grave robbing. Rather than steal dead bodies from graves, however, why not avoid the grave altogether? Killing any unfortunate who happened across their path, Pryce and Rea are soon Dr. Roc's best suppliers of fresh bodies. Science versus morality, need and ambition, truth before conscience are issues explored by the stellar ensemble cast. A superb film for any library."
"I admit to breaking any law that inhibits the progess of sc
cookieman108 | Inside the jar... | 10/08/2005
(4 out of 5 stars)
"It's funny people should mention how much The Doctor and the Devils feels somewhat like a Hammer film, to which I would agree, but it's not really surprising given the director, Freddie Francis, actually made a couple of films for Hammer studios back in the mid to late 60s, including The Evil of Frankenstein (1964) and Dracula Has Risen from the Grave (1968). Based on a screenplay by Dylan Thomas, adapted by Ronald Harwood (The Pianist, Being Julia), the film stars a pre-Bond Timothy Dalton (Flash Gordon, The Living Daylights, The Rocketeer), along with Jonathan Pryce (Brazil, The Adventures of Baron Munchausen), and Stephen Rea (The Crying Game, V for Vendetta). Also appearing is famous 60s model Twiggy (The Blues Brothers, Club Paradise), Julian Sands (Gothic, Warlock), Phyllis Logan (Secrets & Lies), Siân Phillips (Clash of the Titans, Dune), and everyone's favorite bald headed mutant leader/starship captain (the one who doesn't wear a hairpiece), Patrick Stewart (Star Trek: Generations, Conspiracy Theory, X-Men).
The story, set in the 19th century, features Dalton as Doctor Thomas Rock, a teacher of anatomy in a prominent London medical school. Seems Dr. Rock has a problem in getting the teaching materials necessary to conduct his lectures...and by teaching materials, I mean fresh corpses. You see, back in the day it was believed that after death, one needed all his (or her) parts in order to appease Saint Peter and gain passage through the Pearly Gates, so much so the only corpses allowed for use in such manner, by law, were those of convicted criminals executed by the gooberment, the thinking being, I guess, that is if someone was heinous and deserving enough to be executed, there was no question as to the destination of their departed soul. Well, turns out that method doesn't produce nearly enough bodies, so Dr. Rock, in the interest of knowledge and the overall betterment of mankind, has to resort to unscrupulous means to get what he needs, paying grave robbers for their services...three sovereigns for an old body, and seven for a fresh one. Two local sleazebags named Fallon (Pryce) and Broom (Rea) get wind of this, decide they want a piece of the action, and begin supplying Rock with the freshest corpses they can find, so fresh, in fact, they're still warm...if you get my drift. Anyway, as the boys get greedier (and more careless) and Rock continues to turn a blind eye towards his recent windfall of the freshest cadavers money can buy, his peers are concerned with his practices, and the authorities are getting closer to discovering the cause of the recent decrease in the population in Pig's Lane (where Fallon and Broom reside and begin plying their new trade).
While I did enjoy this film, I enjoyed it more when it was originally released in 1945 titled The Body Snatcher featuring Boris Karloff (incidentally, that film was just recently released onto DVD, along with the 1943 film I Walked with a Zombie). All the performances were very good, but I couldn't help wonder how the movie would have fared with Stewart, who was cast as Dr. Rock's peer and most outspoken critic, in Dalton's role. Also, I kinda had a hard time buying off on Twiggy as a lower class streetwalker...I mean really, despite the effort to `grubby' her up, she still stood out against the filthy rabble her character was supposed to associate with...my favorite performances were those by Pryce and Rea as the two, despicable, opportunistic lowlifes who are more than happy to supply the doctor with what he needs if it means some coin in their pockets and gin in their bellies (the lower classes seems to spend an awful amount of time consuming alcohol, but given their lives, it's no surprise they'd want to drown their perpetual miseries in the drink). My favorite scene was when Broom realized his colleague liked his particular role in their new business venture just a wee bit too much, and thought it wise to part company. Overall I thought the story strong, but perhaps a bit more complicated than it needed to be...especially in terms of Dr. Rock's sister Annabella (Phillips) and his wife Elizabeth (Logan). The character of the sister did sort of figure peripherally in Rock's eventual outcome, but both these characters felt supercilious and only drew away from the core plot, in my opinion. I would have preferred the story a bit more stripped down, focusing more on the key characters, rather than spreading itself as widely as it did, which only served to water down some of roles I thought should have been more prominent, like that of Stewart and even Sands. I also wish Dalton's character had been expanded on more, as it was it felt like he spent much of the time harping on the barbarism within the medical profession, the unnecessarily strict confines placed on him and his peers by the gooberment, and how the means justify the ends. I was expecting a little more reaction, perhaps more of sense of his own accountability, towards the end when he finally came to terms with how those within his employ were obtaining that which he needed...ah well, these are just my thoughts, and it seems like I'm bashing quite a bit on the movie, but as I said before, I did enjoy it overall. One really superior element in the film is the overall gothic feel and the detailed set pieces throughout. The story is thoroughly immersed in the 19th century, from the buildings, the props, and the wonderful costumes, populated by a highly professional cast, and featured a strong, slightly extraneous, sense of direction.
The picture quality on this DVD is excellent, and features both the fullscreen, along with the anamorphic widescreen (2.35:1) formats. The Dolby Digital surround audio comes through clean and clear, crackling with life. As far as special features there's an original theatrical trailer, along with trailers for other films like The Alligator People (1959), The Fly (1958), and Phantom of the Paradise (1974), none of which are even remotely related to this film, other than the fact they were all released by Fox.
WELL MADE THRILLER SHOWS THE HORRORS OF EARLY MEDICINE
Mad Movie Monk | Lafayette, CA USA | 02/17/2006
(3 out of 5 stars)
"If you like gothic horror and tales of body snatching, you'll probably enjoy this chiller. Pretty great cast, Timothy Dalton, Twiggy, Julian Sands, Jonathan Pryce and Steven Rea all lift this film to a classy level with the guidance of director Freddie Francis who worked on some of the classic Hammer films. Both widescreen and full screen versions are on the disc and both audio and picture are of good transfer. There are however no extra features."
The Burke and Hare Storey Updated for a Modern Audience
The Keeper | Tenessee USA | 10/07/2007
(3 out of 5 stars)
"I knew when I read the back of the DVD what I was in for with this movie. To make things short, this is an almost scene for scene remake of "The Flesh and the Fiends" film also marketed as "Psycho Killers" "Mania" or "The Fiendish Ghouls". Those who have compared this to a "Hammer" film, may be interested to know that Hammer regular actor Peter Cushing played the main character role (Dr. Knox in this version instead or Dr. Rock) and also it also started Donald Pleasance of Halloween fame. Interestingly enough although these films have a kind or Frankenstein feel to them, they are based on the true story of the William Burke and William Hare Case of Scotland (1827 - 28). Although I prefer the Peter Cushing version, This was not a bad movie, I purchased mostly just for comparative reasons, but was entertained by the movie when I sat down to watch it.