Blu-ray Review: THE BODY SNATCHER

THE BODY SNATCHER is based on a short story by Robert Louis Stevenson. The movie was directed by Robert Wise from a screenplay by producer Val Lewton and Philip MacDonald and stars Boris Karloff, Bela Lugosi, Henry Daniell, Russell Wade, Edith Atwater, Sharyn Moffett and Rita Corday. The music was composed by Roy Webb.

The two titans of horror Boris Karloff (Frankenstein) and Bela Lugosi (Dracula) come together in their last on-screen pairing in The Body Snatcher. Horror icon Boris Karloff plays the title role in the Lewton adaptation of Robert Louis Stevenson’s fictional short story The Body Snatcher, directed with subtle calculation by versatile Robert Wise (West Side Story, The Sound of Music). A doctor (Henry Daniell – The Four Skulls of Jonathan Drake) needs cadavers for medical studies and Karloff is willing to provide them one way or another. 

This 1945 horror-thriller takes place in late 18th century London and follows Dr. Toddy MacFarlane (Henry Daniell), a snobby surgeon and teacher who has an uncomfortable working relationship with John Gray (Boris Karloff), the local taxi driver who moonlights as a grave robber. Dr. MacFarlane uses cadavers for his medical research and Gray is his go-to guy to find them for him. These two men do not like each other one bit but they’re necessary to one another none the less. Dr. MacFarlane is asked to help a young crippled girl and when he rejects the request, his student/assistant Donald (Russell Wade) is asked to help. Donald is really the only good person within this small circle who is filled with good intentions but the evil doctor and grave robber are driven by their own self-interests that ultimately get in the way of things.

What happens is, when Gray shows up with a fresh corpse that Donald recognizes, things get extremely uncomfortable between the two men. Donald finds himself questioning Dr. MacFarlane’s methods and the unspeakable ways these bodies are being delivered to him. All parties get stressed, even Gray who ends up turning on his personal assistant Joseph (Bela Lugosi) when he feels threatened by him. This uncomfortable business dealing between Dr. MacFarlane and Gray ultimately comes to a vicious ending when the grave digger makes a power play against the doctor. This also leaves Donald with a tough decision to make, stay with the doctor or get out before it’s too late. Dr. MacFarlane is left haunted by his final encounter with Gray and in the end he meets the same fate that his old business partner did.

The front of the packaging features the artwork you see at the top of the page and the back includes movie details, some images and list of special features. The reverse sleeve features a classic sales ad for the movie. The Blu-ray disc also features some artwork that matches the front cover. Inserting the disc, the menu screen was simple and easy to navigate.The Body Snatcher has been given a new 4K scan of the original camera negative. The picture and sound quality for this high-definition release were crisp and clear. I didn’t have any issues with the video and audio.

Bottom line is, The Body Snatcher ended up being this fascinating dark character study that stars these two horror legends and it was another first time watch for me. This atmospheric chiller was the eighth and final movie that Boris Karloff and Bela Lugosi starred in together, and even though it’s one of their more obscure horror offerings, it’s a really creepy watch and sort of a departure of what they’d been known for. You know, those fan favorite monster movies. Lugosi plays a small, supporting role with Karloff taking the lead as this cold-blooded figure who does just what the title of the movie says, he’s The Body Snatcher and he’s as sinister of a figure as they come. Nobody is safe! The Body Snatcher has been called the best horror movie from the 40’s and I completely agree. This 1945 RKO Radio Picture will make its Blu-ray debut on March 26th. They don’t make ’em like this anymore.

Distributor: Scream Factory

Run Time: 78 Minutes

Rated: Not Rated

Blu-ray Video: 1080p High-Definition Fullframe (1.33:1) B&W

Blu-ray Audio: English DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 Mono

Subtitles: English

Special Features: The extras include a new feature about the movie, some audio commentary, a documentary focusing on the producer and two image galleries.

  • NEW You’ll Never Get Rid of Me: Resurrecting THE BODY SNATCHER (11:55)
  • Audio Commentary with director Robert Wise and writer/film historian Steve Haberman
  • Documentary – Shadows in the Dark: The Val Lewton Legacy (53:27)
  • Still Galleries – posters, lobby cards, still gallery (05:37)
  • Still Gallery (05:28)

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