I finally watched The Body Snatcher earlier today before returning it, and honestly I liked it WAY more than I thought I would; but even beats out “I Walked with a Zombie”. The only thing lacking is the same mysterious atmosphere that Tourneur is able to create, but even that wouldn’t be entirely appropriate to the claustorphobic Victorian setting. Story-wise the film is slim, focusing on a anatomist who needs to rely cabbie, John Gray, who moonlights as a grave robber. The government’s strict laws prevent the doctor from having enough bodies to teach his courses, but as we learn, they are bound by more than just a business relationship. The film is a great psychological study of the Doctor’s personal torment as he slowly is tortured by his own demons, and doubts. The film is beautiful crafted so that every event ties into his descent, even what seems to be a subplot works beautifully into establishing his character. Then of course, there is Karloff, who once again emerges himself completely into his character. It’s easy to understand why Gray haunts MacFarlane because he is frightening and insistant. I even dare to say, it’s his best performance I’ve seen to date. Lots of great little personal touches made the film extra special, like the singing beggar or the dog on the grave. A wonderful film, that I recommend highly.
I loved this so much, I skipped over Cat People and The Leopard Man to get Isle of the Dead and Bedlam, also in the Val Lewton Horror Collection.