THE BODY SNATCHER is another fine Val Lewton production, this time teaming with director Ray Wise in an adaptation of the classic Robert Louis Stevenson tale. It finds an aspiring doctor enlisting the help of a grave robber in order to secure the cadavers he needs to experiment on in order to perfect a cure for a young crippled girl. With a shortage of recently deceased bodies lying around, the doctor fears of foul play when his cohort produces some rather fresh specimens. Although Wise's direction and style are no match for Lewton-favorite Jacques Tourneur, their visual storytelling are still easily on par, darkening the mood of the Victorian settings with his fog-riddled cemeteries and shadowy figures. Karloff plays into his role of the body snatcher with a brazen conviction that borders on malevolent, but what we find is that there is no true hero in this morbid tale. We come to learn that the atrocities attributed to the conniving grave robber have been masterminded by Dr. MacFarlane, himself, and that it was MacFarlane and his associate Dr. Knox that led Gray to his miserable condition to begin with after allowing him to be imprisoned for their misdeeds. Even the seemingly selfless Fettes condones the grave robbing after he finds out about Gray's cruel secrets. Like many other films that fell under Lewton's production, THE BODY SNATCHER is quite unlike most other Horror entries of the time, and is more of a sad reflection on human greed and egoism than it is an attempt to spook the audience. It is a good effort that stands above many other early-1940s genre films, and well worth seeking out!
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