• Burke & Hare

    Released by:
    Kino/Redemption Films
    Released on: July 17, 2012.

    Director: Vernon Sewell

    Cast: Derren Nesbitt, Glynn Edwards, Francoise Pascal

    Year: 1972

    Purchase From Amazon

    The Movie:

    Directed by Vernon Sewell, 1972’s Burke & Hare is as much concerned with breasts as it is the exploits of England’s most famous pair of grave robbers – but for some, that’s not a bad thing. Keeping expectations in check, this one can still be a lot of fun if you’re in the right mood for it, though those expecting anything even remotely close to a serious horror picture would do well to look elsewhere.

    The film is set in the Victorian age where William Burke (Derren Nesbitt) and William Hare (Glynn Edwards) run a men’s boarding house with very little help from their two lay about wives (Dee Shenderey and Yootha Joyce). Their want of cash increasing, the duo are excited to meet Dr. Knox (Harry Andrews), a university professor who pays cold hard cash for the corpses that he needs for his classes. When one of the men staying at their boarding house dies, they’re quick to cash in on his corpse and before you know it, a tenant who is simply sick is murdered instead of being brought to the local hospital for treatment.

    As the two start making a bit of money in their newfound profession, they soon start suffocating victims left and right and before you know it they’ve basically become serial killers – though their wives seem okay with this, given that they’re making good money doing it and more or less just picking of easy targets like vagrants and other social outcasts, the types of people that the town’s population certainly won’t miss…

    Kicking off with a jaunty little pop song about our corpse snatching fiends performed by a pop band called The Scaffold, Burke & Hare bounces somewhat awkwardly between a fairly traditional horror film and a bawdy English sex comedy. Though these two genres make for the most unlikely of bedfellows, Sewell somehow manages to make it all work though scenes such as those taking place in a brothel and even one involving a three-way do seem somewhat out of place in the context of the story being told. You almost get the impression that Sewell included these scenes simply because it was expected in the seventies that British horror films would include a certain amount of exposed breasts thanks to the loosening of censorship laws that studios like Hammer would take advantage of.

    Further solidifying the Hammer connection is the presence of the lovely Yutte Stensgaard and of fellow Hammer Horror performers Duncan Lamont, Robin Hawdon and Katya Wyeth. The set design was handled by Scott MacGregor who also worked on many Hammer productions and who here does a great job of giving the film the right sort of grubby looking inner city sets and scruffy looking graveyards to play off of and he’s deserving of quite a bit of credit for how good the movie looks.

    The performances from the two leads are fun, with both men doing a fine job in their respective roles as the graverobbing business partners, while supporting efforts from the aforementioned players are also enjoyable. Look for a small role from the beautiful Francoise Pascal, best known for Jean Rollin’s The Iron Rose, as one of the prostitutes. Ultimately the film is an odd mix, but a wholly entertaining one with some good atmosphere, some bizarre sexual comedy, some lovely naked ladies and some great art direction. It’s hammy and corny and more often than not very goofy but you can’t help but have a good time with it.


    Burke & Hare looks very solid in this AVC encoded 1080p high definition widescreen transfer from Kino. Framed at 1.66.1 and restored from the negative, the picture quality is strong. Detail is quite impressive as is texture with plenty to look at in regards to the period costumes and various distinctive faces on display. Colors are reproduced nicely and look quite natural while black levels are strong as well. There are no issues with compression artifacts, edge enhancement or noise reduction to note. Some minor print damage shows up in the form of some specks here and there throughout the movie but the key word here is minor – we’re not talking about any seriously nasty scratches or anything like that. Overall the image is reasonably clean, quite colorful and nicely detailed - fans of the film should be quite pleased here even if it’s obvious that the film hasn’t been given a complete restoration.

    The LPCM Mono track, in English, is a little on the flat side but otherwise fine. Levels are well balanced, dialogue is easy to understand without any issues and any hiss that pops up in the mix is minimal and hardly intrusive. The score also sounds nice, as do the effects used throughout the movie. There are no alternate language options, subtitles or closed captioning options provided anywhere on the disc, unfortunately - but otherwise the movie sounds fine, even if its age and budget show at times.

    The main extra on this disc is a twelve minute featurette entitled Grave Desires: Corpses On Film in which Dr. Patricia MacCormack discusses grave robbers and their place in horror movie history. It’s an interesting enough featurette and worth watching. Also included is an interview with the lovely Francoise Pascal, best known for her work with Jean Rollin, in which she spends four minutes talking about her role in Burke & Hare. Aside from that, we get a trailer for the feature, trailers for a few other Kino/Redemption releases, a still gallery, menus and chapter selection.

    The Final Word:

    Burke & Hare hold up well, a nicely directed black comedy that offers up some effective gallows humor and two impressive performances to make for a good mix of humor and horror. The Blu-ray release from Kino/Redemption is a strong one, and if it’s not stacked with extras the transfer is solid enough to make this one worth the upgrade for fans of the film or British horror in general.

    Click on the images below for full sized Blu-ray screen caps!

    Comments 1 Comment
    1. Todd Jordan's Avatar
      Todd Jordan -
      I watched the trailer for this on Blood Beast Terror and thought it looked like total fun in a crap movie sort of way. 60s Brit Boobs are a plus!