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Burke and Hare 
Written by: on November 12th, 2009


Theatrical Release Date: UK, 1972
Director: Vernon Sewell
Writer: Ernle Bradford
Cast: Derren Nesbitt, Harry Andrews, Glynn Edwards, Yootha Joyce, Françoise Pascal, Yutte Stensgaard, Robin Hawdon, Alan Tucker, Dee Shenderey, Joan Carol, Paul Greaves, David Pugh, James Hayter, Thomas Heathcote, Duncan Lamont

DVD released: September 29th, 2009
Approximate running time: 87 minutes
Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1 Full Frame
Rating: NR
Sound: Dolby Digital Mono English
Subtitles: N/A
DVD Release: Redemption Films
Region Coding: Region 0 NTSC
Retail Price: $19.95


The plot for this film is based upon the crimes of Burke and Hare, who killed a total of 17 victims in between November, 1827 through October 31, 1828. The duo sold the corpses to a doctor named Robert Knox who lectured anatomy at Edinburgh Medical College.

Over the years there has been several film adaptations of Burke and Hare’s murder spree, like The Body Snatcher (1945), The Greed of William Hart (1948), The Flesh and the Fiends (1960), The Anatomist (1961) and The Doctor and the Devils (1985). The 1972 adaptation simply titled Burke and Hare was directed by Vernon Sewell (his swan song as a director). Some other films that he directed include The Blood Beast Terror and Curse of the Crimson Altar.  The cinematographer for Burke and Hare (1972) was Desmond Dickinson whose other notable credits include Laurence Olivier’s Hamlet, Horrors of the Black Museum, Horror Hotel, The Hands of Orlac, Tower of Evil and The Fiend.

For film that is loosely based on actual events the film does a reasonably good job telling the Burke and Hare story. Even though the bulk of the subject matter leans towards the macabre, the film shows just enough when it comes to the murders. It doesn’t take long to figure out where the story is going and how it is going to end. Still this doesn’t diminish the overall effect of the film too much. In between the films bleaker moments that films throws humor and sex into the film with mixed results. If anything the reason why this film holds up as well as it does is because of the performances of Derren Nesbitt and Glynn Edwards, who are cast in the roles of Burke and Hare. Another performance of note is Françoise Pascal (The Iron Rose), in the role of Marie a prostitute who becomes the object of affection of one of the students who is attending a university where Burke and Hare are selling their victims corpses too. Overall this film is a flawed and at times awkward adaption of ‘Burke and Hare’ that has trouble making up its mind if it’s wants to be a horror film or a black comedy.

The DVD:

Even though the DVD back cover lists that the film is in widescreen it is actually presented in a 1.33:1 (full frame) aspect ratio. This transfer has not been flagged for progressive playback. There is print damage that varies in degree throughout and the image looks soft at times. Colors, flesh tones and black levels fare well.

This release comes with one audio option a Dolby Digital mono mix in English. There are some instances of hiss, background and minor distortion issues. Despite the shortcomings of this audio mix it is still an adequate enough presentation.

Extras for this release includes a stills gallery that has music from the film playing in the background and a featurette titled “Grave Desires: Corpses on Film” (12 minutes 23 seconds – anamorphic widescreen), which is a one on one conversation with Dr. Patricia MacCormack. This is another exceptional analytical breakdown of Burke and Hare and similar themed films. Also included with this release are trailers for Killer’s Moon, Girl on a Motorcycle, Prey and Requiem for a Vampire, all of these title’s are currently available DVD from redemption Films. Overall Burke and Hare gets a serviceable DVD release that is highlighted by the “Grave Desires: Corpses on Film” featurette.

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