British Horror Presents: The Flesh and The Fiends (1960)

We are students of Hippocrates, but some of us are hypocrites.

The gruesome story of the Irishmen William Burke and William Hare (Scotland’s two most famous ghouls and serial killers, who terrorized Edinburgh from 1827 to 1828) has long proved morbidly attractive subject matter for popular writers and film-makers.  Robert Louis Stevenson famously fictionalized their exploits in the short story, “The Body Snatchers” (1884), and many film-makers in the twentieth century have returned to either Stevenson’s text or historical source-materials in order to dramatize Burke and Hare’s year-long killing spree, which they undertook in order to provide the Edinburgh Medical College with corpses for dissection by medical students.  Such film adaptations include the following:  The Body Snatcher (1945, dir. Robert Wise); The Greed of William Hart (1948, dir. Oswald Mitchell), starring Tod Slaughter as William Hart (née Burke); Dr. Jekyll and Sister Hyde (1971, dir. Roy Ward Baker); Burke & Hare (1972, dir. Vernon Sewell); The Doctor and the Devils (1985, dir. Freddie Francis); and this year’s Burke and Hare (dir. John Landis), starring Simon Pegg as Burke and Andy Serkis as Hare.  Excepting Landis’ forthcoming (and hitherto unseen) version (which comes out in the UK at the end of the month), The Flesh and the Fiends is easily the best of the bunch and comprises a nasty quasi-realist supplement to The Curse of Frankenstein (1957) and The Revenge of Frankenstein (1958).  Not to be missed.

Thursday, October 14th

Stevenson 150, 9 PM

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