Burke and Hare – DVD Review

John Landis returns behind the camera to direct the epic meeting of Shaun of the Dead and Caesar the Ape.  The results are more of a gentle comedy, but it has a dark and a down ending that doesn’t seem to jibe with what comes before.  It’s still better than the Stupids (a movie that lives up to its title). 

In Edinburgh, Scotland, two surgeons, Dr. Munro (Tim Curry) and Dr. Knox (Tom Wilkinson), are the toast of the medical community.  Munro is the academic and Knox the showy publicity seeker.  Munro has the political contacts and gets all of the dissecting corpses sent to the academy, leaving Knox without a cadaver to cut. 

Meanwhile, con-men William Burke (Simon Pegg) and William Hare’s (Andy Serkis) latest scheme has failed so they’re looking for some extra cash.  Hare’s wife Lucky (Jessica Hines) is keeping the coffers filled boarding the likes of Old Donald (Robert Fyfe) and Old Joseph (Christopher Lee), but age accelerates the loss of renters as Old Donald dies and Lucky goes back to the bottle. 

Burke and Hare hear that Dr. Knox is looking for fresh cadavers and being told to dispose of Old Donald take the deceased to him.  They find that it’s a good business in supplying “medical supplies” and begin to procure product through any means – they will assist you in becoming room temperature. 

Hare for the cash and Burke to fund the play of Ginny Hawkins (Isla Fischer) so he can foster their budding relationship, but the authorities in the form of Capt. McLintoch (Ronnie Corbett) are hot on the trail of the two body snatchers. 

The film begins with something along the lines of “this is a true story, except for the parts we made up.”  That’s not exactly a laugh out loud moment but it did amuse me (and spoke to me about the current state of “reality” TV).  The story of Burke and Hare snuffing folks to fund their supply business is a true one but I doubt those lads had the comedy stylings of Pegg and Serkis. 

That story is no stranger to the silver screen as it has been adapted several times, but usually leans towards the more horrific route.  Cameoing Lee appeared as one such inspiration (Resurrection Joe) in Corridors of Blood with Boris Karloff.  Fans of Hammer Films or Ealing Comedies (it is billed as one from Ealing Studios) can find something to like, but the jokes are a bit subtle as compared to what constitutes comedy these days. 

Maybe also a bit more literary and cerebral too – I don’t know that many Hangover fans will get the Greyfrairs Bobby nod.  I have to give the ghoulish guffaws some credence in that it’s much funnier than the Stupids and is more on Landis’ right track than that attempt.  The game Brit cast gives it a go, amuses, and the production looks quality.

It probably has more resonance for Hammer or horror fans, but it did bring a smile to my face on occasion. 

Burke and Hare is presented in widescreen (2.40:1) and is enhanced for 16×9 televisions.  Special features include a 23 minute behind-the-scenes, an hour’s worth of interviews (no play all – boo) with most everyone cast and crew, ten deleted scenes (again no play all), 3 minutes of outtakes, and the 2 minute trailer. 

With the game cast, horrific inspirations, and Landis’ directorial hand appearing more adept than before, I came away liking Burke and Hare.  Your mileage may vary but if you’re a Hammer/Ealing fan you at least owe yourself a rental.  They even visit the skeleton of Burke in Edinburgh and he looks like he enjoyed himself filming with that grin on his face.

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Note the date on this article may be incorrect due to importing it from our old system.