The Flesh and the Fiends (1960)

  |  Crime, Drama, Horror

The Flesh and the Fiends (1960) Poster

In 1828 Scotland, Edinburgh surgeon Dr. Knox does medical research on cadavers he buys from murderers Burke and Hare, without questioning the unethical procurement methods.


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17 February 2016 | AlsExGal
| I felt somewhat baited and switched here...
With Peter Cushing as Dr. Knox billed as the lead, I felt that he did not get nearly enough screen time to justify the billing. The film starts out promisingly with Dr. Knox lecturing medical students in anatomy, scoffing at his fellow physicians for their hypocrisy and old fashioned ways, and receiving cadavers from two questionable fellows - Hare (Donald Pleasance) and Burke (George Rose)- as subjects for the study of his students and himself.

This is where he goes wrong. He is paying for cadavers thinking them the product of morgue or grave robbing. Hare and Burke just see that they can get eight guineas per corpse. And every human being is a potential corpse. So why work so hard to dig them up if you can just find some homeless person with no friends or family, offer them a drink and a warm place by the fire for awhile and strangle them? Nobody will miss them and poof! Eight guineas! This is the rather predictable path similar films and even episodes of Night Gallery have trodden. What makes it good are the times that Cushing is on screen and his brilliant portrayal of a morally ambiguous figure, and the rather odd and unexpected ending that seems somewhat classist. Let's just say this couldn't have been made in the USA at the time because of the production code.

The rather tiresome parts are the romances between minor characters that at first don't seem to have much purpose - actually one romance does - and the excessive footage in the bawdy pubs of impoverished London.

Without Peter Cushing, I'd rate this a 5/10 - quite mediocre. With him it jumps a star to a worthwhile 6/10.

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