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      The Flesh and the Fiends

      Released Jan 24, 1961 1h 27m Horror Crime Drama Romance List
      Reviews 67% Audience Score 500+ Ratings Dr. Knox (Peter Cushing) is an Edinburgh-based doctor of anatomy whose ideas about research on deceased human bodies are in direct conflict with a law that limits the study of cadavers to criminals who have been executed. With these legal cadavers in short supply, a pair of lower-class greedy grave robbers, William Burke (George Rose) and William Hare (Donald Pleasence), appease the doctor's needs by presenting him with illegal bodies they have exhumed. The pair soon escalate to murder. Read More Read Less

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      The Flesh and the Fiends

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      Critics Reviews

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      Peter Martin ScreenAnarchy What makes Peter Cushing so terrifying in this historical horror picture is that he believes in what he is doing Rated: 4.0/5.0 Feb 5, 2021 Full Review Matt Brunson Film Frenzy Grisly British chiller. Donald Pleasence is particularly good. Rated: 3/4 Jul 11, 2020 Full Review Emanuel Levy EmanuelLevy.Com Rated: 2/5 Oct 11, 2005 Full Review Read all reviews

      Audience Reviews

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      Alec B The Flesh and the Fiends, a 1960 British horror film directed by John Gilling, explores the infamous Burke and Hare murders in 19th-century Edinburgh. Peter Cushing delivers a compelling performance as Dr. Robert Knox, a respected anatomist whose pursuit of scientific knowledge becomes entangled with the nefarious activities of grave robbers Burke and Hare. The film skillfully weaves elements of horror and historical drama, offering a fascinating narrative that delves into the moral complexities of scientific advancement. Given its 1959 production, the film quality is not too shabby. Provided that audiences can stomach cliche, mid-century melodramatic dialogue, vintage film enthusiasts may enjoy it. Rated 3 out of 5 stars 11/18/23 Full Review CKB The Flesh and the Fiends is a remarkably faithful account of the actual Burke and Hare murder spree in 1820s Edinburgh, in which they killed 16 people to sell to a medical school for dissection -- no questions asked. This is not really a horror film, but a serious, intelligent drama about a horrible subject. The parallels between the rationalizations used by the impoverished villains for committing their murders and the 'higher purpose' excuse of the educated elites they sell their victims to is unsettling. Peter Cushing, who had based his proud, obsessive Dr. Frankenstein character in Hammer films on the real Dr. Knox who bought Burke and Hare's victims, is the perfect actor for this part. All of the actors are first-rate, and it's amazing to see Donald Pleasance playing a manipulative lowlife scumbag like Hare so brilliantly. Rated 4 out of 5 stars 02/05/23 Full Review martin a This is a fantastic film, a Doctor who needs bodies for his research pays men to supply them, however soon there are some new guys in town who start bumping off the living to supply the doctor! But when the truth gets out he must answer to the law! Rated 5 out of 5 stars 03/31/23 Full Review Audience Member The Flesh and the Fiends (aka "Mania", "The Psycho Killers", and "The Fiendish Ghouls") Starring: Peter Cushing, Donald Pleasence, and George Rose Director: John Gilling In 1827, sociopathic drunkards Burke (Rose) and Hare (Pleasence) strike it rich by selling recently deceased bodies to the esteemed doctor and medical instructor Dr. Robert Knox (Cushing). Knox, frustrated by his inability to acquire bodies in good shape for dissection turns a blind eye to where his new study subjects may be coming from, while Burke and Hare are murder their way through Edinburgh's poor and homeless. They get sloppy and greedy... and when they kill one of Dr. Knox's students, things go from bad to worse. Based on real-life events surrounding a doctor who actually did do quite a bit to advance the science of anatomy, and two murderous men who helped him do it, "The Flesh and the Fiends" isn't quite a horror film--despite the many lurid titles it's been presented under over the years--although the real-life events it describes are pretty horrible, but instead a well-acted drama about how a fundementally good man with a righteous goal can become tainted by evil if he lets obsession and ambition blind him to moral right and wrong. The film is particularly interesting because Peter Cushing is plays Dr. Knox, a character who has a lot in common with Baron Frankenstein; both men believe they alone know how to advance medical science and everyone else is too limited in vision and drive to acheive. (There's even a scene in "The Flesh and the Fiends" that is very similar to one in "The Revenge of Frankenstein"--in both cases, the doctors are ordered to appear before Medical Councils bent on disgracing them. In both cases, the summoned doctor refuses to bow before them.) There are two key differences between Knox and Frankenstein as portrayed by Cushing. Frankenstein always has a superior air about him and nothing (NOTHING!) ever truly harms his ego or sense of self. Knox, on the other hand, while arrogant and sure that he Knows What Is Right, always has a slightly sad and lonely air about him--he stands alone and he isn't quite sure why. The scene where Knox manages to see himself as the world has come to see him is one of the most striking moments in the film, and it's one that Cushing pulls off spectacularly... and really underscores that he is playing two very different characters despite the many similarities. Aside from Cushing, Pleasence and Rose are great as the infamous serial killers, Burke and Hare. The rest of the cast does a good job as well, and the musical score is above average for a movie of this kind, from this period in British cinema. So, with all that raving, why only a Six-Tomato Rating? First of all, there's the look of the film. With the exception of scenes where an angry mob is chasing Burke and Hare after their murderous deeds come to light, Gilling doesn't take advantage of the fact that he is shooting in black-and-white. Most scenes are varying shades of gray where some stark lighting contrasts would have upped the drama significantly and made the movie far more interesting visually. Second, there isn't enough exploration of Knox and his family. His daughter and her fiance are introduced and both characters play small parts in the film. They are very decent people, and through them we get the sence that Knox is a decent person too, but we don't get enough of this. If we saw more of Knox's "private life" away from the lecture hall and the basement where he purchases corpses from Burke and Hare, his fall and redemption would be that much more impactful. One less barroom scene and one more scene of Knox interacting with the daughter would have done wonders for the film, I think. Nonetheless, "The Flesh and the Fiends" is a film that's worth seeing for fans of the Golden Age of the British thriller. Fans of Peter Cushing and Donald Pleasence will also be able to enjoy these two actors giving fine performances. Rated 3 out of 5 stars 01/18/23 Full Review Audience Member Reminds me of one of the Hammer Frankenstein films with Cushing as the doctor. This film though is more a drama and less a horror, based on historical cases. Though interesting and educational the entertainment factor is rather low. Acceptable late night fare for the horror aficionado. Rated 3 out of 5 stars 02/18/23 Full Review Audience Member Directed by John Gilling (The Plague of the Zombies (1966), The Reptile (1966) and The Mummy's Shroud (1967)), this horror was written by Gilling and Leon Griffiths (who later created Minder) and it retells the story of the crimes of Burke and Hare whose exploits were written as The Body Snatchers by Robert Louis Stevenson, although this focuses more on the man they did business with, but this is a very effective and moody film with a good cast. In Edinburgh in the 1820's, Dr. Robert Knox (Peter Cushing) does medical research for classes of students, for this he requires cadavers, but the bodies that come in are of dubious quality. Local wheeler-dealers William Burke (George Rose) and William Hare (Donald Pleasence) come up with a way to provide Dr. Knox with bodies, fresh ones too. At Burke's house, they kill the lodgers and give them to Knox to cut up for his students, but someone notices people going missing. Plus, Knox's colleague Dr. Geoffrey Mitchell (Dermot Walsh) becomes suspicious at how many corpses Knox seems to be getting when other doctors are struggling to get any. It all seems very mysterious, but Burke and Hare slip up and after barmaid Mary Patterson (Billie Whitelaw) is killed, that's one too many. It has some good moments, and it's a very effective film shot in a stark black and white, but it shows what a good actor Cushing was, and even if this was made on the cheap, it manages to do quite a bit with so little, and it's quite heavy going for it's day too. But, it's a good history lesson of medical history, something which Cushing researched for the part. Rated 3.5 out of 5 stars 02/05/23 Full Review Read all reviews
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      Synopsis Dr. Knox (Peter Cushing) is an Edinburgh-based doctor of anatomy whose ideas about research on deceased human bodies are in direct conflict with a law that limits the study of cadavers to criminals who have been executed. With these legal cadavers in short supply, a pair of lower-class greedy grave robbers, William Burke (George Rose) and William Hare (Donald Pleasence), appease the doctor's needs by presenting him with illegal bodies they have exhumed. The pair soon escalate to murder.
      John Gilling
      Robert S Baker, Monty Berman
      John Gilling, Leon Griffiths
      Valiant Films
      Horror, Crime, Drama, Romance
      Original Language
      Release Date (Theaters)
      Jan 24, 1961, Limited
      Release Date (Streaming)
      Apr 17, 2020
      1h 27m
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