The Doctor and the Devils


1h 33m 1985
The Doctor and the Devils

Brief Synopsis

Grave robbers supply a doctor with bodies for his laboratory testing.

Photos & Videos

The Doctor and the Devils - Movie Poster

Film Details

Also Known As
Doctor and the Devils
MPAA Rating
Genre
Crime
Historical
Thriller
Release Date
1985
Distribution Company
20TH CENTURY FOX DISTRIBUTION/BROOKSFILMS INTERNATIONAL

Technical Specs

Duration
1h 33m

Synopsis

Grave robbers supply a doctor with bodies for his laboratory testing.

Film Details

Also Known As
Doctor and the Devils
MPAA Rating
Genre
Crime
Historical
Thriller
Release Date
1985
Distribution Company
20TH CENTURY FOX DISTRIBUTION/BROOKSFILMS INTERNATIONAL

Technical Specs

Duration
1h 33m

Articles

The Doctor and the Devils


Intended by funnyman founder Mel Brooks as a production house for serious independent films to be forged as a bulwark against Hollywood homogeneity, Brooksfilms scored early successes with David Lynch's oneiric 1980 historical drama The Elephant Man (a free adaptation of the long-running Broadway play), Richard Benjamin's nostalgia show business comedy My Favorite Year (1982), and Brooks' own comedic chronicle History of the World: Part 1 (1981); even the under-performing Frances (1982), a biopic of troubled Hollywood starlet Frances Farmer starring Jessica Lange, counted as a win for the company, due to the film's good press, voluminous critical kudos, and Academy Award nominations. A life-long horror fan (who had broached the genre with his Gothic farce Young Frankenstein, back in 1974), Brooks obtained the rights to the unproduced Dylan Thomas screenplay The Doctor and the Devils, with a mind towards dishing up some good old fashioned blood and thunder. To give the film the feel of a 60s-era Hammer horror, Brooks hired cinematographer-turned-director Freddie Francis (who had photographed The Elephant Man), veteran of such seminal old school shockers as The Evil of Frankenstein (1964), Dr. Terror's House of Horrors (1965), and Dracula Has Risen from the Grave (1968).

Written during World War II, when the unfit-for-duty Thomas was scripting propaganda films for the British Ministry of Information, The Doctor and the Devils was based on the infamous Edinburgh "resurrection men" Burke and Hare, Irish immigrants and petty criminals who earned gin money robbing graves to supply a demand for cadavers among the city's preeminent anatomists - specifically Dr. Robert Knox - and were hanged for their troubles in 1828. Robert Louis Stevenson was the first to capitalize on the case with his short story "The Body Snatcher," source of the 1945 RKO Radio Pictures film of the same name starring Boris Karloff as a one-man Burke and Hare. Though Gainsborough Pictures had expressed an interest in the Thomas screenplay, the subject was next taken up by British bogeyman Tod Slaughter, whose The Greed of William Hart (1948) was reworked and retitled in postproduction due to objections from the British Board of Film Censors. James Bridie's 1930 stage play The Anatomist was adapted twice for British television, in 1939 by the BBC and in 1956 by ITV, in a production headed by Alastair Sim as Knox. Independent producers Robert S. Baker and Monty Berman scored a casting coup when they cadged Hammer headliner Peter Cushing to play Knox in their take on the tale, The Flesh and the Fiends (1960).

Though it was Mel Brooks' inclination to use merely the title of the Thomas screenplay, Francis pressed for greater fidelity to the source material. As a result, playwright and Oscar-nominated screenwriter Ronald Harwood was cashiered to find a middle ground between good old blood-and-thunder and Thomas' poetic discourses on death and of the employment of evil as a means of achieving good. Prior to replacing Roger Moore as the movies' James Bond, Timothy Dalton was cast as the maverick Dr. Rock, with Jonathan Pryce and Stephen Rea chosen as Burke and Hare surrogates Fallon and Broom. Star that year as well of the Merchant-Ivory smash A Room with a View (1985), Julian Sands would go on to make horror a subspecialty, playing Frankenstein creator Mary Shelley's doomed husband Percy in Ken Russell's Gothic (1986) and the title roles in Warlock (1989) and The Phantom of the Opera (1998). Former pop star Twiggy was an inspired choice to play the imperiled but gold-plated prostitute Jennie Baily while Patrick Stewart cannot, in retrospect, help but to steal focus in his scenes shot just two years before his career redefinition as the star of Star Trek: The Next Generation.

Released in the autumn of 1985, The Doctor and the Devils never found its audience, perhaps considered too crass by the art house crowd and not crass enough by horror moviegoers whose tastes were then being altered by the onslaught of such franchise sequels as Friday the 13th: A New Beginning, A Nightmare on Elm Street 2: Freddy's Revenge, and Howling II: Your Sister is a Werewolf -- as well as by the worthier, but undeniably arch examples of Fright Night, Re-Animator, and The Return of the Living Dead. (Equally grim and serious-minded, George Romero's Day of the Dead, second sequel to the landmark classic Night of the Living Dead [1968], was another box office non-starter that year.) Critics were equally unkind and The Doctor and the Devils was dumped, unceremoniously, onto VHS tape, which made a hash of the widescreen cinematography of Gerry Turpin and Norman Warwick. In later years, scripter Ronald Harwood declined to discuss his participation in the project and Freddie Francis never again directed another feature film under his own name. Returning to cinematography, Francis rebounded in 1990 with an Academy Award for photographing Glory (1989) and prior to his death in 2007 was lauded for his work on such diverse films as Martin Scorsese's Cape Fear (1991) and David Lynch's The Straight Story (1999).

By Richard Harland Smith

Sources:

It's Good to Be King: The Seriously Funny Life of Mel Brooks by James Robert Parish (Wiley, 2008)
Interview with Ronald Harwood by Patrick McGilligan, Backstory 5: Interviews with Screenwriters of the 1990s (University of California Press, 2010)
Dylan Thomas: The Complete Screenplays, edited by John Ackerman (Applause Books, 1995)
Horror Film Directors: 1931-1990 by Dennis Fischer (McFarland & Company, Inc., 1991)
The Doctor And The Devils

The Doctor and the Devils

Intended by funnyman founder Mel Brooks as a production house for serious independent films to be forged as a bulwark against Hollywood homogeneity, Brooksfilms scored early successes with David Lynch's oneiric 1980 historical drama The Elephant Man (a free adaptation of the long-running Broadway play), Richard Benjamin's nostalgia show business comedy My Favorite Year (1982), and Brooks' own comedic chronicle History of the World: Part 1 (1981); even the under-performing Frances (1982), a biopic of troubled Hollywood starlet Frances Farmer starring Jessica Lange, counted as a win for the company, due to the film's good press, voluminous critical kudos, and Academy Award nominations. A life-long horror fan (who had broached the genre with his Gothic farce Young Frankenstein, back in 1974), Brooks obtained the rights to the unproduced Dylan Thomas screenplay The Doctor and the Devils, with a mind towards dishing up some good old fashioned blood and thunder. To give the film the feel of a 60s-era Hammer horror, Brooks hired cinematographer-turned-director Freddie Francis (who had photographed The Elephant Man), veteran of such seminal old school shockers as The Evil of Frankenstein (1964), Dr. Terror's House of Horrors (1965), and Dracula Has Risen from the Grave (1968). Written during World War II, when the unfit-for-duty Thomas was scripting propaganda films for the British Ministry of Information, The Doctor and the Devils was based on the infamous Edinburgh "resurrection men" Burke and Hare, Irish immigrants and petty criminals who earned gin money robbing graves to supply a demand for cadavers among the city's preeminent anatomists - specifically Dr. Robert Knox - and were hanged for their troubles in 1828. Robert Louis Stevenson was the first to capitalize on the case with his short story "The Body Snatcher," source of the 1945 RKO Radio Pictures film of the same name starring Boris Karloff as a one-man Burke and Hare. Though Gainsborough Pictures had expressed an interest in the Thomas screenplay, the subject was next taken up by British bogeyman Tod Slaughter, whose The Greed of William Hart (1948) was reworked and retitled in postproduction due to objections from the British Board of Film Censors. James Bridie's 1930 stage play The Anatomist was adapted twice for British television, in 1939 by the BBC and in 1956 by ITV, in a production headed by Alastair Sim as Knox. Independent producers Robert S. Baker and Monty Berman scored a casting coup when they cadged Hammer headliner Peter Cushing to play Knox in their take on the tale, The Flesh and the Fiends (1960). Though it was Mel Brooks' inclination to use merely the title of the Thomas screenplay, Francis pressed for greater fidelity to the source material. As a result, playwright and Oscar-nominated screenwriter Ronald Harwood was cashiered to find a middle ground between good old blood-and-thunder and Thomas' poetic discourses on death and of the employment of evil as a means of achieving good. Prior to replacing Roger Moore as the movies' James Bond, Timothy Dalton was cast as the maverick Dr. Rock, with Jonathan Pryce and Stephen Rea chosen as Burke and Hare surrogates Fallon and Broom. Star that year as well of the Merchant-Ivory smash A Room with a View (1985), Julian Sands would go on to make horror a subspecialty, playing Frankenstein creator Mary Shelley's doomed husband Percy in Ken Russell's Gothic (1986) and the title roles in Warlock (1989) and The Phantom of the Opera (1998). Former pop star Twiggy was an inspired choice to play the imperiled but gold-plated prostitute Jennie Baily while Patrick Stewart cannot, in retrospect, help but to steal focus in his scenes shot just two years before his career redefinition as the star of Star Trek: The Next Generation. Released in the autumn of 1985, The Doctor and the Devils never found its audience, perhaps considered too crass by the art house crowd and not crass enough by horror moviegoers whose tastes were then being altered by the onslaught of such franchise sequels as Friday the 13th: A New Beginning, A Nightmare on Elm Street 2: Freddy's Revenge, and Howling II: Your Sister is a Werewolf -- as well as by the worthier, but undeniably arch examples of Fright Night, Re-Animator, and The Return of the Living Dead. (Equally grim and serious-minded, George Romero's Day of the Dead, second sequel to the landmark classic Night of the Living Dead [1968], was another box office non-starter that year.) Critics were equally unkind and The Doctor and the Devils was dumped, unceremoniously, onto VHS tape, which made a hash of the widescreen cinematography of Gerry Turpin and Norman Warwick. In later years, scripter Ronald Harwood declined to discuss his participation in the project and Freddie Francis never again directed another feature film under his own name. Returning to cinematography, Francis rebounded in 1990 with an Academy Award for photographing Glory (1989) and prior to his death in 2007 was lauded for his work on such diverse films as Martin Scorsese's Cape Fear (1991) and David Lynch's The Straight Story (1999). By Richard Harland Smith Sources: It's Good to Be King: The Seriously Funny Life of Mel Brooks by James Robert Parish (Wiley, 2008) Interview with Ronald Harwood by Patrick McGilligan, Backstory 5: Interviews with Screenwriters of the 1990s (University of California Press, 2010) Dylan Thomas: The Complete Screenplays, edited by John Ackerman (Applause Books, 1995) Horror Film Directors: 1931-1990 by Dennis Fischer (McFarland & Company, Inc., 1991)

Quotes

Trivia

Miscellaneous Notes

Released in United States Fall October 4, 1985

Released in USA on video.

Began production January 14, 1985.

Released in United States Fall October 4, 1985