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Film / The Body Snatcher

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Dr. MacFarlane: What is Gray to me? He's a man from whom I buy what I need when I need it. The rest is forgotten.
Meg Camden: You may deny him, Toddy, but you'll not rid yourself of him by saying the devil's dead.

Loosely based on the short story of the same name by Robert Louis Stevenson (which you can read here for comparison), The Body Snatcher is a 1945 horror film directed by Robert Wise, and produced by Val Lewton. It is notable for being the last film to have both Boris Karloff and Bela Lugosi together.

Set in Scotland in 1831, the story opens up on an aspiring young man, Donald Fettes, who is training to be a doctor under one Dr. Wolfe "Toddy" MacFarlane. However, Dr. MacFarlane's dirty secret is he has hired a cabman, John Gray, to dig up bodies as specimens for dissection. Soon, the doctor starts to get blackmailed by his worker, who in turn began murdering to provide fresher bodies.

Lugosi, despite being billed second, has a fairly minor role as Joseph, the doctor's dimwitted servant. This was one of the last halfway decent acting parts for Lugosi, whose career by this time was on a long slide that ended with Ed Wood movies.


Not to be confused with the sci-fi movie Invasion of the Body Snatchers.

The film has the following tropes:

  • Shovel Strike: Gray kills a dog that's barking at him when he goes to a graveyard to do his trade.
  • Signature Sound Effect: The white horse's clip-clops.
  • Sound-Only Death: The street singer's death is signified by a sudden silence when Gray reaches her.
  • Villain Ball: Gray had several chances to kill MacFarlane during their fight, but Gray kept sparing MacFarlane instead. This just leads to MacFarlane escaping from Gray and beating him to death.
  • Well-Intentioned Extremist: MacFarlane's Motive Rant would indicate he's so devoted to his job (and advancing medical science) that he sees nothing wrong with stealing corpses. How much of this is sincere and how much simply self-justification is open to debate.


How well does it match the trope?

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