The Horrors of Burke and Hare (1972)

aka Burke and Hare
Article 1793 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 2-10-2006
Posting Date: 7-10-2006
Directed by Vernon Sewell
Featuring Derren Nesbitt, Harry Andrews, Glynn Edwards

Two lower class men decide to augment their incomes by selling a dead body to a medical doctor. Deciding that this is a profitable enterprise, they continue to do so, only taking the extra step of using murder to create the supply.

This movie opens with a rock group called the Scaffold singing a somewhat comic song about Burke and Hare; I would love to know who’s in this group, because one of the background vocalists sounds an awful lot like Vivian Stanshall of the Bonzo Dog Band. The song should clue you into the way this movie is going to approach the Burke and Hare story – as a bawdy comedy! And when I say bawdy, I mean bawdy; much of the story dwells on the goings-on in a nearby brothel, where we see many naked women cavorting with their customers. This alone pushes the movie into exploitation territory; but somehow, I like it well enough, largely due to some interesting dialogue and energetic direction from Vernon Sewell, whose credits include THE BLOOD BEAST TERROR and CURSE OF THE CRIMSON ALTAR; this would be his last directorial effort. The performances are also fun; in particular, Harry Andrews gives a memorable performance as Dr. Knox, who wears an eyepatch and regales his friends with off-color jokes. I was pleasantly surprised by this one, as I wasn’t expecting much.

NOTE: I have tracked down that at least one member of the Scaffold worked with Vivian Stanshall on occasion.


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