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:
- Affably Evil: Gray comes of as this, especially to 'Toddy' and to a paralyzed young girl he brings to see MacFarlane. Don't be fooled, beneath that he's one of the vilest characters Karloff ever portrayed.
- Ambiguous Ending: Though he's mentioned it a couple of times, it's hard to tell if Donald Fettes chose to remain training to be a doctor, or went down a different path.
- Anti-Hero: MacFarlane is a type III.
- Arc Words: "You'll never get rid of me, Toddy."
- Artistic License Medicine: Somehow, Georgina's tumor was originally caused by a carriage accident.
- Blackmail Backfire: Joseph thinks that he'll be able to get easy money by blackmailing Gray. He gets strangled by him.
- Cheshire Cat Grin: Gray often wears this until someone rankles him and the mask comes off.
- The Disease That Shall Not Be Named: Georgina has a tumor that is compressing her spinal nerves and causing her paralysis. MacFarlane says the word "tumor" but never says "cancer".
- Driven to Madness: MacFarlane, who starts stealing bodies himself after Gray's death (and who suffers a Villainous Breakdown shortly afterwards).
- Dr. Jerk: MacFarlane, in contrast to his student Fettes.
- Establishing Character Moment: In Gray's first scene, he kills a dog guarding its master's grave.
- For Science!: How MacFarlane justifies his body snatching.
- Grave Robbing: The Movie.
- Have You Told Anyone Else?: After Joseph comes to Gray and attempts to blackmail him with his knowledge of Gray's crimes, Gray says "You came here of your own accord?" After Joseph admits that he came of his own accord and no one knows he came there, Gray kills him.
- Ill Girl: Georgina Marsh, who has a crippling spinal disorder.
- Jerk Ass Has A Point: Gray calls MacFarlane out on his terrible bedside manner.
- Kick the Dog: Gray actually kills one before kicking it aside to dig up its master's body. His character morale goes downhill from there.
- Killed Mid-Sentence: The street singer's song is cut off mid-lyric when Gray kills her in order to get another body for MacFarlane.
- Madness Mantra: NEVER get rid of me! NEVER get rid of me! NEVER get rid of me!
- Married to the Job: MacFarlane, according to his wife.
- Mugging the Monster: Joseph tries to blackmail Gray, which doesn't end well for him.
- Nice Guy: Donald Fettes comes off as this. Georgina prefers him as her doctor over MacFarlane.
- Pet the Dog: Gray of all people does this when he forces MacFarlane to operate on a paralyzed girl he earlier refused to help. He also thoughtfully provides 'Toddy' with the body of a murdered blind girl for practice.
- 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 Mac Farlane during their fight, but Gray kept sparing Mac Farlane instead. This just leads to Mac Farlane 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.