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The Doctor and the Devils

UK/USA 1985
produced by
Jonathan Sanger, Mel Brooks (executive) for Brooksfilms, 20th Century Fox
directed by Freddie Francis
starring Timothy Dalton, Jonathan Pryce, Twiggy, Julian Sands, Stephen Rea, Phyllis Logan, Lewis Fiander, Beryl Reid, T.P. McKenna, Patrick Stewart, Sian Phillips, Philip Davis, Philip Jackson, Danny Schiller, Bruce Green, Toni Palmer, David Bamber, Nichola McAuliffe, Deirdre Costello, Terry Neason, Paul Curran, Merelina Kendall, Dermot Crowley, Sarah Melia, Stephen Yardley, John Horsley, Jack May, Rachel Herbert, Simon Shepherd, David Parfitt, Simon Adams, Jeff Rawle
screenplay by Ronald Harwood, based on an original screenplay by Ronald Harwood

Burke and Hare

review by
Mike Haberfelner

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Edinburgh, the 19th century: Doctor Rock (Timothy Dalton) is a progressive university professor, teaching surgery to his students. However, the corpses he is supplied with to demonstrate his art on his students leave a lot to be desired, most show more than a hint of decay and are in a horrible condition. Two of his regular graverobbers, Fallon (Jonathan Pryce) & Broom (Stephen Rea) take his complaints seriously, and since they figure they could get double for a fresh body, well, they start producing fresh corpses - as in killing people. The first who notices that the corpses are a bit too fresh is Rock's assistant Murray (Julian Sands), but when he tells Rock, Rock turns a deliberate blind eye to it, favouring science over moral issues. So Fallon and Broom have a steady income for the longest crime, and since they only prey on the riffraff of society nobody will miss, their murders remain uninvestigated or even undetected for the longest time. Then though, Fallon and Broom have a party with two prostitutes, Alice (Nichola McAuliffe) and Jennie (Twiggy), and Fallon insists on murdering them and sell them while Broom insists it's time to move on and ultimately beats it. Fallon kills Alice and brings her to Rock, but when Murray sees the woman, he recognizes her - basically because he is in unrequited love with Jennie and knows the two are best friends and inseperable ... and now he desperately rushes to Jennie's rescue. Suffice to say, he saves her, and after Broom turns witness to the prosecution and goes free, Fallon is sent to the gallows and Doctor Rock is chased out of Edinburgh.

Patrick stewart plays the head of Rock's university.


This thinly disguised adaptation of the Burke and Hare-story has everything going for it, a brilliant cast, a director who understands how to handle period horror, and a macabre basic plot to begin with - and yet, teh film falls flat on its face. Basically, the script is to blame: Sure, the thing is well researched, gives the conflict science vs morality plenty of room, and tries to get its period right - which results in the film being filled with not characters but stereotypes, not dialogue but empty phrases, not narrative build-up but dull lecturing. Furthermore, there are no tension, suspense, shocks, and the macabre details are so toned down they are hardly there anymore.

In all, a very disappointing bore.


review © by Mike Haberfelner


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Robots and rats,
demons and potholes,
cuddly toys and
shopping mall Santas,
love and death and everything in between,
Tales to Chill
Your Bones to

is all of that.


Tales to Chill
Your Bones to
a collection of short stories and mini-plays
ranging from the horrific to the darkly humourous,
from the post-apocalyptic
to the weirdly romantic,
tales that will give you a chill and maybe a chuckle, all thought up by
the twisted mind of
screenwriter and film reviewer
Michael Haberfelner.


Tales to Chill
Your Bones to

the new anthology by
Michael Haberfelner


Out now from




On the same day
a Burglar wants to kill you
and your Ex wants
to make up ...
... and for the life of it,
you can't decide


A Killer Conversation

produced by and starring
Melanie Denholme
directed by
David V.G. Davies
written by
Michael Haberfelner
Ryan Hunter and
Rudy Barrow

out now on DVD