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The Flesh and the Fiends (1960) - Blu-ray Review

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The Flesh and the Fiends (1960)

Make no mistake about it, The Flesh and the Fiends is a righteous horror film, drooping left eye and all, as experimental vivisections rule the day.

Lost men! Lost souls!  With no apologies issued to the dead, The Flesh and the Fiends begins in a spooktacular fashion as a body is torn free from the grave it is buried in and then dragged on the ground.  In fact, the only one in this horror flick who will be apologizing is the head of a medical academy in 1828 Edinburgh, the overly critical and generally unlikable Dr. Robert Knox, played with fine flourish by Peter Cushing.

"The Flesh and the Fiends is a righteous horror film, drooping left eye and all, as experimental vivisections rule the day"


When your business is dealing with cadavers like that of Dr. Knox (Cushing), it’s best not to worry about where they come from.  You might not like the answers, especially if your suppliers go by the names of Burke (George Rose) and Hare (Donald Pleasence).  Too bad Knox’s peers don’t see it that way.  While his students love Knox, it’s his peers which cause him the most grief as they are stuck in their ways.  Knox wants to keep pushing the envelope when it comes to the study of anatomy, whether the specimens be alive or dead, and - originally - makes no concern whatsoever in where they come from.

Enter the horror in this tale of madness.  Without a Gothic bone in its body, this creepy classic crawls out from the crypt and, using nudity and gore, creates a damn fine tale that continues to produce screams, as made clear by the brand-new 2K master from Kino Lorber.

While there have been a number of movies dealing with the exploits of Burke and Hare, none of them reach the highs - or is it the depths of depravity - found in writer/director John Gilling’s The Flesh and the Fiends, which focuses on the murderous exploits of two drunken criminals: William Burke (Rose) and William Hare (Pleasence) as they stumble upon a dead body which can fetch them a pretty penny and find themselves in leagues with Knox (Cushing), who gives no care about the fact that they start killing in order to provide him with cadavers to play with. The Flesh and the Fiends (1960)

The Flesh and the Fiends is pitch-perfect.  Rich in striking atmospheres and killer attitudes, the horror chiller might not have any spooks kicking up dusty scares throughout its running time, but it doesn’t need to in order to be the thriller that it is.  This flick is genuinely scary as poverty stricken areas of Scotland get high marks when it comes to attention to detail thanks to the creative work of art director John Elphick and the harrowing cinematography from Monty Berman (Jack the Ripper, The Hellfire Club).  

With Gilling (Plague of the Zombies) at the helm, the behind the scenes team creates a grim and grotesque story as the murders start piling up, especially one involving a well-known mentally ill youth (Melvyn Hayes).  This backdrop, curtained against the fine acting of Pleasence, Rose, and Cushing, makes for a killer tale of sick and twisted men with lessons concerning morality to learn all over again.

Graverobbers! Murders!  And it is all in the name of science.  The Flesh and the Fiends is now on blu-ray thanks to Kino Lorber Studio Classics.

More fearsome than Frankenstein!  More demonic than Dracula!  Enter the depraved study of Dr. Knox!

5/5 stars

The Flesh and the Fiends (1960)

Blu-ray

Blu-ray Details:

Home Video Distributor: Kino Lorber
Available on Blu-ray
- July 7. 2020
Screen Formats: 2.35:1
Subtitles
: English SDH
Audio:
DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 track
Discs: Blu-ray Disc; Two-disc set
Region Encoding: Locked to Region A

Edinburgh, 1827. Irish immigrants Burke (George Rose, A New Leaf) and Hare (Donald Pleasence, Halloween) hit upon the idea of selling the bodies of the recently deceased to eminent surgeon Dr. Robert Knox (Peter Cushing, The Skull). Dr. Knox, knowing that experimental vivisection is the only way for medicine to make progress, forms an uneasy alliance with the self-styled body snatchers. When Burke and Hares’ supply of available corpses begins to run out, they decide to speed the process along by murdering the poor and the homeless. Men and women, old and young, everyone becomes a target for the deadly duo, but even as the body count rises, Knox turns a blind eye to their methods in order to further his research. But after one of his own medical students is murdered, Knox finds it difficult to remain impassive. With the public out for the killers’ blood and the Medical Council out to disgrace him, Dr. Knox must use all of his skill and intelligence to preserve the dignity of his profession and to justify his controversial actions in the face of near-universal condemnation. Co-written and directed by John Gilling (The Reptile) and co-starring Billie Whitelaw (The Omen), The Flesh and the Fiends is presented in this special edition in its original U.K. version and its 74-minute U.S. cut, The Fiendish Ghouls a.k.a. Mania.

Video:

Kino Lorber presents The Flesh and the Fiends with a newly remastered print in 1080p.  With bold black levels and clear white levels, it is a perfectly balanced picture showcasing an unbalanced world of universities and graveyards.  There are a couple of focus issues due to the clarity of the print but it should not bother most.  There are no scratches on the print, too, and the film looks better than previous releases.  The film feels fresh – especially 2.35:1 aspect ratio – and offers a depth in some of the scenes that previously felt too enclosed.  

Audio:

The soundtrack – an engaging DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 track – is free of hiss and other noise but is not as engaging as one could hope for.

Supplements:

Commentary:

  • There is a NEW audio commentary by Film Historian Tim Lucas which covers all the different versions of the movie, one of which make him actually toss his cookies.

Special Features:

Fans get the alternate version of the movie and a theatrical trailer.

  • Includes alternate cut The Fiendish Ghouls aka Mania
  • Trailers

Blu-ray Rating:

  Movie 5/5 stars
  Video  4/5 stars
  Audio 3/5 stars
  Extras 4/5 stars

Overall Blu-ray Experience

4/5 stars

The Flesh and the Fiends (1960)

MPAA Rating: Unrated.
Runtime:
94 mins
Director
: John Gilling
Writer:
John Gilling
Cast:
Peter Cushing, June Laverick, Donald Pleasence
Genre
: Horror | Crime
Tagline:
MURDER was their business!
Memorable Movie Quote: "We are students of Hippocrates, but some of us are hypocrites."
Theatrical Distributor:
Valiant Films
Official Site: https://www.kinolorber.com/product/the-flesh-and-the-fiends-special-edition-blu-ray
Release Date:
January 21, 1961
DVD/Blu-ray Release Date:
July 7, 2020.
Synopsis: More Fearsome Than Frankenstein... More Demonic Than Dracula! Edinburgh, 1827. Irish immigrants Burke (George Rose, A New Leaf) and Hare (Donald Pleasence, Halloween) hit upon the idea of selling the bodies of the recently deceased to eminent surgeon Dr. Robert Knox (Peter Cushing, The Skull). Dr. Knox, knowing that experimental vivisection is the only way for medicine to make progress, forms an uneasy alliance with the self-styled body snatchers. When Burke and Hares’ supply of available corpses begins to run out, they decide to speed the process along by murdering the poor and the homeless. Men and women, old and young, everyone becomes a target for the deadly duo, but even as the body count rises, Knox turns a blind eye to their methods in order to further his research. But after one of his own medical students is murdered, Knox finds it difficult to remain impassive. With the public out for the killers’ blood and the Medical Council out to disgrace him, Dr. Knox must use all of his skill and intelligence to preserve the dignity of his profession and to justify his controversial actions in the face of near-universal condemnation.

The Flesh and the Fiends (1960)

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