Saturday, 30 October 2010

Burke & Hare

Year: 2010
Director: John Landis
Screenplay: Piers Ashworth and Nick Moorcroft
Starring: Simon Pegg, Andy Serkis, Isla Fisher, Tom Wilkinson, Jessica Hynes
Running Time: 100 minutes
Genre: Comedy, horror, period

Summary: It is the year 1828 and the city of Edinburgh is famous as a centre for science and medicine, and is home to two prestigious medical schools, one run by Doctor Robert Knox (Wilkinson) and the other by his arch-rival Doctor Monroe (Tim Curry). In order to keep these schools supplied with corpses to use as teaching aids, most of which are provided by the bodies of executed criminals. However, Monroe uses his political influence to have all the bodies of the recently executed automatically turned over to him. Deprived of the only legal means of obtaining fresh cadavers, Knox finds himself having to turn to the body-snatchers (also known as "resurrectionists") who steal bodies from graves and sell them, a potentially lucrative but also highly illegal profession. William Burke (Pegg) and William Hare (Serkis) are two Irish immigrants who attempt to make a living as con-men but without success, their only regular source of income being a boarding-house run by Hare's wife, Lucky (Hynes). When one of their lodgers dies, Burke and Hare realise that they can sell the body to Knox for a good price. Add to this is the fact that Knox always needs more bodies. The problem is that the cropses need to be as fresh and as intact as possible. The only solution is for them to provide the corpses themselves.

Opinions: This film is based on a true story which is still something of a legend in Edinburgh, although the film is very far from being historically accurate (one scene for example features another Edinburgh legend, Greyfriars Bobby, the little dog who spent fourteen years guarding the grave of his owner, depsite the fact that the dog wasn't born until 1855 - 16 years after the events of the film). However it is an entertaining film which manages to be funny throughout. The humour is mostly pretty broad and slapstick. The film is also very gory, which may put off some viewers, and some horror fans might be put off by the comedy element. The production design and sets are impressive creating an impressive vision of 1820s Edinburgh. It is also very well performed by a talented cast which is filled out by numerous cameos from well-known British actors and comedians. Focusing mostly on Burke and Hare themselves the movie makes them genuinely likeable and sympathetic characters, despite their murderous activities, and give Burke a moving romantic story with aspiring actress Ginny (Isla Fisher).
While far from being perfect, this film is both funny and dark.

Simon Pegg and Andy Serkis in Burke & Hare

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