For Reel

The Body Snatcher (1945)
February 24, 2015, 9:03 pm
Filed under: Reviews | Tags: , ,

Director: Robert Wise
3.5 Stars
The Body SnatcherA beggar woman sings while roaming down a street after dark. Her voice is accompanied only by the sound of the horse and carriage following behind her. She disappears into the blackness, then the carriage does, and with an abrupt gurgle followed by silence it is clear that she has been murdered. The camera remains still on the shadows that have just enveloped the figures. This shot in The Body Snatcher is demonstrative of everything that made horror icon Val Lewton so successful. It both revels in the atmospheric tone–the street with few light sources, the music being sung like a sort of funeral march–and suggests unspeakable horrors without showing anything. Although, like all of the pictures shot by Lewton’s unit, the budget is low and it was shot quickly, this effort does have the signification of starring horror icons Boris Karloff and Bela Lugosi (albeit in a bit part). Karloff gives one of his best performances as a terrifying, thoroughly unpleasant cretin who revels in the hatred he inspires. Furthermore, while many of Lewton’s films were set in modern times, The Body Snatcher does much with its period detail, fulling bringing alive 19th century Edinburgh.

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