The Anatomist (1961)

Article #850 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 7-13-2003
Posting Date: 12-10-2003
Directed by Leonard William
Featuring Alastair Sim, George Cole, Adrienne Corri

A medical student finds his impending marriage to a young woman is threatened by his association with Dr. Knox, who may be using resurrection men to supply his medical school with cadavers.

Title check: Appropriate enough, as Dr. Knox was an anatomist.

This is another of the many movies based on the exploits of Burke and Hare; this one is more focused on Dr. Knox, and plays out more like a historical drama than a horror movie. It’s based on a stage play and was shot for television, which goes a long way towards explaining the style of the movie; most of it takes place on only three sets, and it largely consists of characters talking (and shouting) at each other. It’s well acted, even if it’s played somewhat over the top; there were scenes here where I felt that the actors were competing to see who could best channel the spirit of Tod Slaughter. All the action scenes take place offstage.

Ultimately, this might all work, as the story itself is interesting enough. Unfortunately, I was somewhat disappointed by it. Part of the reason is I’m not quite sure if the movie has any real point of view on the matter. The ending makes me suspect that we’re supposed to feel sympathy for Knox, but outside of a single admission of his that he feels a bit of guilt over the deaths of the victims of the resurrectionists, his arrogance and other unpleasant personality traits leave me feeling very unsympathetic towards the man. Though it’s not without merit, I suspect there are several other movies on the same subject that I would rather watch.


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