Directed by Robert Wise [Other horror films: The Curse of the Cat People (1944), The Day the Earth Stood Still (1951), The Haunting (1963), Audrey Rose (1977)]
This classic film is one that’s heavily bolstered by solid performances and a rather entertaining story. While somewhat light on what you might traditionally expect from a horror film, I think The Body Snatcher has a lot going for it.
One thing about this film that I rather enjoy is the fact that it’s easy to use this as a companion piece to the 1960 release The Flesh and the Fiends. If one were somewhat daring, you could even call The Flesh and the Fiends a prequel to The Body Snatcher. At the very least, the two films work together well, and as both are rather decent films, there’s possibilities there.
The Body Snatcher’s cast is probably the best part about the film. Bela Lugosi is somewhat underused, but both Henry Daniell and Boris Karloff are used to great effect. Daniell has that aura of a dignified man with a rather torrid past, while Karloff oozes sleaziness in virtually every second of screen-time. Daniell and Karloff are definitely the most memorable performances here, because while the audience’s moral center, played by Russell Wade, is decent, he’s ultimately somewhat forgettable by the time the story wraps up.
Speaking of which, while at first I was hesitant toward the final ten minutes of the film (they struck me as unnecessary, given the death of the antagonist that had already happened), I found them masterful (important to note that while I’ve seen this one before, it’s been quite a long while, so many of the details were forgotten). The final carriage ride is just fantastic, both introspective and somber, turning into a manic, thrilling conclusion.
While it’s light on some horror aspects (which is something I didn’t really notice at the time, but seems clear when thinking back to the film), The Body Snatcher is a lot of fun, and it really does have a lot going for. Definitely give it a watch, as it’s one of the high-lights of the often lackluster decade that was the 1940’s.