Bodies keep turning up in town. The doctors who use them as test subjects in their study don’t ask questions until it becomes obvious that something sinister is lurking about at night. Shout Factory re-released THE BODY SNATCHER on Blu-ray, a film adaptation of the classic Robert Louis Stevenson tale.
This classic 1945 horror film has stood the test of time with the help of superb actors. In particular, Boris Karloff and Henry Daniell provide powerful performances that carry this film past the enjoyment of an entertaining narrative. The dynamic between the trolling grave robbing John Gray, played by Boris Karloff, and serious doctor “Toddy”, played by Henry Daniell, provides comic relief throughout the film. The complex interdependence of Gray and Toddy provides the centerpiece of the film. In addition, Bela Lugosi in the role of Joseph also presents a memorable performance and is arguably a star of the feature despite playing a somewhat auxiliary character.
In terms of writing, the writers, Phillip MacDonald and Val Lewton, support the actors with developing complex characters with engaging dialogue. Themes of masculinity, ethics, and power are explored throughout the film. There is a depth and complexity to the characters as they are faced with moral dilemmas. Viewers become invested in the characters and choices they must make that go beyond the horrors of death.
There are clear horror elements in this film that are expressed beyond many other films in the time period in which it was released. There are both suggestions of murder and scenes where murders take place which was provocative for the time. There is a beautiful shot that takes place in the rain and gives a suggestion of murder with sound cues that is extremely artistic and memorable. Most of the horror elements are artistically understated. For example, there is suggested surgery and murder that take place without showing grotesque images or blood. The way that horror is presented in the film is of interest to contemporary audiences who may be used to more direct depictions of horror.
Overall, THE BODY SNATCHER is a high budget, compelling and enjoyable film that classic horror fans will likely enjoy. Now in higher definition, fans of the classics can reflect on how the horror genre has shifted over time.