NEW WORLD PICTURES MONTH: Burke and Hare (1972)

William Burke and William Hare killed sixteen people over ten months, scandalizing Scotland when it was discovered that they had sold the corpses to anatomist and ethnologist Robert Knox for dissection during his anatomy lectures. Their story of these “resurrection men” inspired so many movies, including The Body SnatcherHorror ManiacsThe Flesh and the FiendsThe Doctor and the Devils and 2010s Burke and Hare.

Where this movie differs is that director Vernon Sewell (Curse of the Crimson AltarThe Blood Beast Terror) tries to combine comedy, horror and lots of sex in his attempt to be different than what came before, including having nearly a sitcom theme song for the antics, which was written by Roger Webb with lyrics by Norman Newell, and performed by English comedy/musical trio The Scaffold (with uncredited vocal assistance by Vivian Stanshall).

Burke (Derren Nesbitt) and Hare(Glynn Edwards) live in filth, drinking away their days while rich doctors do the same, yet live in comfort. What they have in common are the brothels, places where they can escape duty and wives and just have no strings sex. Dr. Knox (Harry Andrews) is in need of hanging victims for his students to experiment on and for him to slice apart while he lectures. He hires the two to get these bodies and the authorities kind of let it pass, as after all society needs doctors.

When fresh bodies in their graves start to run out, the two start killing poor people that will never be missed and many of whom are already close to death. Yet the demand still is more than the supply, which means that they start killing people who just might be missed, like sex worker Marie (Françoise Pascal from Rollin’s The Iron Rose!). As if Pascal isn’t enough, Yutte Stensgaard (Carmilla herself from Lust for a Vampire) appears.

It’s not the definitive story of these grave robbers, but it’s still kind of bawdy fun. The sets look nice and man, that theme song!

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