powered by AFI
The onscreen credits of this film read: "Robert Louis Stevenson's The Body Snatcher." The picture closes with the following quote from Hippocrates: "It is through error that man rises. It is through tragedy that he learns. All roads to learning begin in darkness and go out into the light." Burke and Hare were 19th century murderers who killed their victims by suffocating or "burking" them. According to production memos contained in the RKO Legal Files, producer Val Lewton requested that Michael Hogan be hired to write the screenplay, but his request was denied because the studio deemed his salary to be too high. Other memos in the Legal Files reveal that Lewton continually fought with his supervisor, Jack Gross, over the budget for this picture. Gross insisted upon keeping the budget at $125,000, plus the cost of employing Boris Karloff, while Lewton wanted to hire more stars and boost the picture to an "A" production. According to an August 1944 letter from Lewton to his sister and mother, as reprinted in a modern source, Lewton felt that Gross, who had been a producer of Universal horror films, held a grudge against him because he felt that Lewton's horror films were superior to his Universal films.
According to the MPAA/PCA files contained at the AMPAS Library, the film was originally condemned by the city of Chicago and the state of Ohio and given a "B" rating from the National Legion of Decency because of its "excessive gruesomeness." To appease the various censorship boards, the studio toned down scenes depicting grave robbery and the dissection of bodies. Other films based on Burke and Hare were the 1960 British film Mania, directed by John Gilling and starring Peter Cushing and Donald Pleasance, and the 1971 British film Burke and Hare-Body Snatchers, starring Harry Andrews and directed by Vernon Sewell.