Steven Hellerstedt | 09/11/2006
(1 out of 5 stars)
"How not to make a horror movie in England in 1948:
1- Don't base your main characters on real-life, really notorious `resurrectionists' (body snatchers) William Burke and William Hare before squaring it with the censors. If you do there's a good chance, as happened here, you'll have to go back in post-production and spend a good deal of money dubbing out the banned names and replacing them with `Hart' and `Moore.'
2- If the budget's so tight you're forced to chose between post-dubbing and a musical score don't opt for post-dubbing. Just don't. Bad idea. Have a crashing cymbal drown out the offending names every time they're uttered. You may be able to make a suspense/horror flick without atmospheric music, but you probably won't make one worth watching. Heck, have someone hum `Mood Indigo' on a kazoo if you have to.
3- Don't let the pretty girl in the bonnet off the hook. Catch a clue when the only mounting suspense occurs when the pretty girl goes to the resurrectionists' lair looking for her missing girlfriend. Don't be in such a hurry to change the point of view to that of the intrepid young Stanley Squarejaw. He can take care of himself, she can't, and she's the one we're going to worry about.
4- If Shakespeare ain't writing the dialogue, don't pretend he is. For instance, one of many unfortunate instances, don't flower up the `umble lab assistant's "'orror of it all" speech or the corrupt doctor's stout defense of his morbid studies. If you must include such speechifying, drown out the sappiest bits with crashing kazoo music.
5- Don't sit still. You can be forgiven lighting your movie with smoky kerosene lanterns, but take us to an interesting hovel once in a while.
6- Don't let the censors win every trump. Resurrectionisting is grisly business, and for those of us who aren't great fans of over-the-title star Tod Slaughter, who, in fact, may never have heard of him, the impression made by this movie is one of unpleasant business carried on by a pair of unpleasant characters played by a pair of unpleasant actors. The movie indicates the resurrectionists dismembered their victims, history tells us they were delivered to the medical school intact. If you can't show us the grisly goings-on, creatively use shadows, or sounds, or someone walking into a room with a bloody hacksaw and begrimed apron. Have `em drink a glass of red, red wine.
The good thing about this movie, in the Alpha release, anyway, is its under-an-hour runtime. In fact, it clocks in at 53-minutes. Apparently the original ran 80-minutes - but I doubt this is a butchered classic any more than I believe you'll have a smaller headache if you're rapped with a larger wooden spoon.