Based on Dylan Thomas' original screen play, this shocking horror-thriller stars Timothy Dalton as Thomas Rock, a brilliant young anatomy professor in 1820s Edinburgh. At first accepting only the cadavers provided him for study - those of a few hanged criminals a year - Rock eventually recruits two grave robbers (Jonathan Pryce and Stephen Rea) to secure a better supply of corpses. Coming to the gory conclusion that they will earn more the "fresher" the corpses, the two begin committing murder and delivering warm bodies to the doctor's lecture chambers. Also starring Julian Sands and Twiggy, The Doctor And The Devils brings classic chills from start to finish.
Back in 1985, Mel Brooks produced a gothic horror film with a future 007 agent and future Captain of the Starship Enterprise. That film was called 'The Doctor and the Devils', and is based on real events from a few 19th century murderers in England. And I'm not talking about the infamous Jack The Ripper, but rather 'Burke and Hare', who went on a big killing spree, where they took their deceased victims and sold them to a Dr. Knox, who would experiment on the cadavers to further the knowledge of science and the human anatomy.
The film centers mostly on one Dr. Thomas Rock (Timothy Dalton), who is a a professor and doctor who examines and studies the human body. Dr. Rock wants to further the science and research of the human body, while others think that his methods aren't exactly kosher, including Professor Macklin (Patrick Stewart), who constantly tries to expose and stop Dr. Rock. Since Dr. Rock is needing more and more dead bodies to do his experiments on, he enlists the help of Robert Fallon and Timothy Broom (Jonathan Pryce and Stephen Rea), who hear about the "good" doctor's needs. Fallon and Broom both embark on a killing spree and deliver the newly dead to the doctor for a hefty fee and no questions.
It seems like a reasonable deal, but Broom and Fallon (Burke and Hare) start murdering innocent people wherever they are, instead of doing the deed more rationally. There is an unfleshed out side story with Dr. Rock's apprentice (Julian Sands) and his lover (Twiggy), but it doesn't go anywhere really. To add to the gothic horror tones, Thomas focuses on the religious themes of what happens to people's souls and bodies after death. And Rock must struggle with whether to keep accepting these dead bodies when he finds out that they were innocent murders.
Everyone does a great job here with their roles, even if it seems a little too gothic, but the dialogue is delivered perfectly. 'The Doctor and the Devils' is a great look with one hell of a cast and crew at some of the most horrific murders ever to grace the newspapers, and it still holds up thirty years later.
'The Doctor and the Devils' comes with a very good 1080p HD transfer presented in 2.35:1 aspect ratio. This film is thirty-years old, so there are a few minor issues with the video, but on a whole, this is a great looking picture. This horror film comes with a natural layer of grain, giving it that filmic look rather than a digital aspect. I prefer the filmic look on these older horror films. It just gives me a bit of nostalgia for the old days of VHS horror. The detail is fairly vivid and sharp throughout, especially during closeups where we can see wrinkles, makeup blemishes, gore, and individual hairs quite nicely.
However, there is a brownish-orange tint to most of the picture throughout, which hinders the detail from time to time, especially during the lower lit scenes. Colors look great here and pop off screen most of the time. There are some deep reds, great browns, oranges, and blues. Skin tones are natural and the black levels are mostly deep and inky, however there is some minor crush in a few certain spots. Other than that, there are no issues such as banding, aliasing, or any other problem, leaving this video presentation with solid marks.
This release comes with a good lossless DTS-HD 2.0 stereo mix and sounds quite good. I only wish this horror film had the option for a 5.1 track, because it would have been more immersive. Sound effects sound very good and are for most part, robust, but the lack of sound from the rear speakers really bugged me here.
But the front speakers did a great job with prioritization and layering the sound. Dialogue is always crystal clear and easy to follow, despite the heavy Scottish accents. If it's too much, you can always add the English subtitles. The LFE is great and the dynamic range is very wide, leaving this audio track with good marks.
Commentary with Author Steve Haberman - Haberman has done a bunch of commentaries for various other older horror movies before, and here he gives us a wealth of information on the history of this production. It's quite fun and engaging.
Interview with Mel Brooks, Jonathan Sanger, and Randy Auerbach (HD, 16 Mins.) - It's great to see these guys discuss making the film and some fun stories that happened on set.
Trailer (HD, 2 Mins.) -Trailer for the film.
'The Doctor and The Devils' is a fresh and different type of horror film. It's not your usual slasher pic. But that's what it has going for it. That and a giant all-star cast. The video and audio are both good and the couple extras on this release are pretty decent. I do believe if you're a fan of horror or if you want to see an early film of Patrick Stewart and Timothy Dalton, then this is a must-own for your collection. Highly Recommended!