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Peter Cushing - The Flesh and the Fiends (1960) (SiRiUs sHaRe) torrent
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The Flesh and the Fiends (1960)
Edinburgh surgeon Dr. Robert Knox requires cadavers for his research into the functioning of the human body; local ne'er-do-wells Burke and Hare find ways to provide him with fresh specimens...
Peter Cushing ... Dr. Robert Knox
June Laverick ... Martha Knox
Donald Pleasence ... William Hare
George Rose ... William Burke
Renee Houston ... Helen Burke
Dermot Walsh ... Dr. Geoffrey Mitchell
Billie Whitelaw ... Mary Patterson
John Cairney ... Chris Jackson
Melvyn Hayes ... Daft Jamie
June Powell ... Maggie O'Hara
Andrew Faulds ... Inspector McCulloc
Director: John Gilling
Codecs: DivX 5 / MP3
Widescreen 2.75:1 aspect ratio
This is quite possibly the finest British horror-film ever made--except that it is entirely-true. The Flesh and the Fiends is nothing-less than a fairly truthful accounting of the original 'bodysnatchers,' Burke and Hare who resorted-to-murder after running-out of 'fresh' corpses for a Dr. Thomas Knox, of Edinburgh, Scotland. It is a scandalous-story that would never have been possible were it not for antiquated religious-notions that it was unholy to disinter the dead--even if approved by the deceased and their survivors--for the purposes of medical-inquiry. Shot in an shadowy-expressionist black, there are few films that top this in the horror-canon. Hammer had some great films, but this is really the capper. Burke and Hare just wanted money to drink and whore. In the squalor of early-industrial Britain, there were precursors to Jack the Ripper, and Burke and Hare could have taught Jack a few-lessons.
Britain's early-industrial poverty spawned rampant-licentiousness, disease and violence. When human-life is considered worthless, you get a tendency for crime and murder of this type. Groan all-you-want, but these were the fruits of a form of gross economic-inequality that prevails today. And for those who don't know, Great Britain in the 1820s was the time of Charles Dickens. Dr. Knox was one of numerous aristocratic-doctors of his day who had to resort to the employ of bodysnatchers to obtain fresh-cadavers for his anatomical-research. Because of this, Flesh and the Fiends is also a tale of scientific-ethics--with a wrongheaded-ending! Dr. Knox was definitely aware at some point that Burke and Hare were murdering human-beings for money (this all paid-handsomely at the time), to provide him bodies. It doesn't get much darker than this. Would we even bat-an-eye today? In Houston (circa 1960s-1970s), the coroner's office was selling the cadavers of homeless Black men to the Department of Energy for radiation-experiments. Today, there are organized-crime groups who snatch-organs from the living and the dead for the highest-bidders! Egads, bodysnatching never-ended.The film: it was produced by a tiny independent English studio called 'Independents-International', and is regarded as their best-film.
With this seemly arrogant but honest message showing on the screen, the film opens at a dark Edinburgh cemetery where two vicious figures lift a cadaver from its grave... "The Flesh and the Fiends" tells the true story of William Burke and William Hare, corpse-suppliers to the ambitious surgeon and university professor Dr. Robert Knox. From what I've read in factual biographies and works of reference (yes, I find this stuff so intriguing that I study it on the side), the screenplay is rather accurate and faithful when it comes to the basic re-telling of the murder cases. Burke and Hare's modus operandi as well as their negotiations with Dr. Knox really were this clumsy and unscrupulous while Knox damn well knew about the suspicious methods of the two, but he couldn't care less as long the study-objects he received were fresh and supplied regularly. I reckon that writer/director John Gilling then added some fictional elements to his film, like the characterizations of the main roles, since Hare's persona is almost blackly comical and Dr. Knox' attitude is stubborn and typically obnoxious like nearly every scientist in horror cinema. Still, the escalation of the tragedy is truthfully illustrated with Burke and Hare getting into the body-snatching business coincidentally at first, but quickly specializing in it because of the good cash money and eventually even converting to murder in order to deliver the most 'quality'.
"The Flesh and the Fiends" isn't just a great historical film, it also is a praiseworthy horror achievement with a uniquely grim atmosphere and very convincing acting performances. John Gilling terrifically revives a 19th century Edinburgh with its low-perspective inhabitants (drunks, beggars and thieves...) and ominous bars and alleys. The murders are very mean and cold-heartedly illustrated (the death of a young unintelligent boy, strangled amid squealing pigs is particularly unsettling) which probably makes this film the most disturbing of the entire 50's decade. Peter Cushing is excellent in the – for him – familiar role of brilliant doctor but it especially are Donald Pleasance (hypocrite and self-centered) and George Rose (a simple-minded killer) who impress as Hare and Burke. The supportive roles are somewhat stiff and they bring forward redundant sub plots, like the romantic interactions between Knox' daughter Martha and her doctor-lover Geoffrey. The typically Scottish accents are a joy to listen to and the eerie black and white photography emphases the already very chilling tone. This movie is still incomprehensibly underrated and unknown. Maybe because it's not a Hammer production or maybe because the substance was considered controversial for a long period of time. Fact remains that this old shocker is far better than most contemporary horror gems and everybody who has an interest in the obscure should urgently check it out!
The late '50s was one of the most important periods in the evolution of horror cinema - especially the British horror film, which was undergoing a radical new wave of gory Technicolour entries such as Dracula, The Curse of Frankenstein and The Mummy. Two men who were thrust into super-stardom thanks to these movies were Peter Cushing and Christopher Lee, perhaps the finest horror actors ever to grace the genre. The Flesh And The Fiends (a.k.a Mania) is a 1959 chiller, shot in black and white, with Cushing in the main role. The black and white photography harks back to the style of the older horror films from the '30s and '40s, but the story is quite disturbing and includes some pretty grisly scenes more in line with the contemporary hunger for explicit blood and guts. And, while Christopher Lee might for once be missing as Cushing's co-star, Donald Pleasance proves himself to be a wonderfully adept replacement.
In 19th Century Edinburgh, a respected lecturer in anatomy, Dr. Knox (Peter Cushing), goes about his work and outwardly seems to be the perfect gentleman. However, he keeps a dark and disgusting secret from his niece Martha (June Laverick) and her lover Dr. Mitchell (Dermot Walsh). Knox secretly buys corpses from a pair of unscrupulous local grave-robbers named Burke (George Rose) and Hare (Donald Pleasance). With these dead bodies, Knox carries out secret anatomical studies. Burke and Hare, realising that they're onto a lucrative line of business, begin to murder victims rather than simply digging up the bodies of the already-dead so that they can keep the doctor stocked with corpses. This spate of murders doesn't seem to concern Knox too much, even though he suspects that Burke and Hare are the culprits.... so engrossed is he in his experiments that he is happy to turn a blind eye. Eventually Burke and Hare are captured for their crimes, the latter testifying against his accomplice to save his skin (though he is later pursued and blinded by a hateful mob), while - most disturbing of all - the cruel and calculating Dr. Knox is ultimately pardoned for his own part in the affair.
The Flesh And The Fiends is a very impressive horror film, in which Knox is shown to be the real monster by the way he uses his wealth and intellect to exploit the impoverished Burke and Hare. While Burke and Hare's motive is merely to make money, Knox manipulatively allows them to shoulder all the risk by carrying out the grave-robbing and murders that will get him his corpses. The scenes of squalor and filth are very powerfully captured, and the scenes showing dead bodies being dragged from their earthy graves are extremely provocative for the time. Cushing is outstanding as usual, and Rose and Pleasance make a genuinely creepy pair of resurrectionists. Though it might not be the gore-fest that modern audiences seem to demand, The Flesh And The Fiends is a gruesome treat for those who remember what old-style horror flicks were all about.
# This film is an adaptation of the story of real-life killers William Burke and William Hare who, around 1827 in Edinburgh, Scotland, did provide more than a dozen "fresh" corpses to the anatomist Dr. Knox.
# This film was remade in 1985 by Freddie Francis as The Doctor and the Devils (1985) and names of the characters were changed.