Saturday, February 26, 2011


Directed by John Landis

Simon Pegg - William Burke
Andy Serkis - William Hare
Ilsa Fisher - Ginny

     A black comedy based on true life events about two 19th century grave robbers who find a lucrative business providing cadavers for an Edinburgh medical school.

     I will always have respect for John Landis and have since I first saw An American Werewolf In London for the first time when I was sick when I was 12 years old. Werewolf was the first true horror film  I saw that had funny parts put in it just to be funny and not due to unintentional comedy. How can you not laugh at Griffin Dunne's Jack Goodman's hallucinated decomposing, ripped flesh hanging off in patches body, telling his friend David Kessler, played by David Naughton, to kill himself while complaining about the crappy state of conversations among the dead. Since then I got to watch all his other comedies from The Kentucky Fried Movie ("Show me you're nuts.") to the awful Blues Brothers 2000 (stay away and stick with the original Blues Brothers.) Now comes his newest movie Burke and Hare.

     Even though the film is called Burke and Hare, the true star is Simon Pegg as William Burke through and through. But that's not to say that it's his best performance, in fact it's not, but he does draw your compassion for the character as Burke is the most likable of the whole cast and shows he has the most flaws. Andy Serkis' William Hare on the other hand is played with a air of snobbishness that he feels that the world owes him everything  and he does quite well with it but is likable none the less. Pegg and Serkis thankfully play quite well off of each other as a lot of the comedy is from the back and forth between these two and the situation they get themselves into. Isla Fisher's portrayal of Burke's love interest Ginny, is the one performance in this movie that I could not really get into, partly due to her fake accent, yet more than anything else it just seemed she tried to hard to be funny when it called for it and it failed.

     Now as for the look and feel of the film, it feels like you are transported to 18th century as not one shot feels out of place or wasted. This is thanks to both Landis and the cinematography of John Mathieson. While it is great to see clean, crisp pictures where the action is never lost, a film will go nowhere if the direction isn't there. The main reason the film works is due to Landis. Landis has always had a knack for comedic timing in his work even though it seemed as if he lost that with his more recent works, just take his Masters Of Horror episode Deer Woman for instance. A complete mess that didn't really know where it was going and even the comedy in it fell flat every time. Thankfully Landis is back to his old ways .Landis litters the lansdscape and scenes with little details that are easy to overlook but that just helps add to the feel of the movie and brings back the classic John Landis that I love. As well as his direction of the actors is just exceptional, specially with Simon Pegg as he carries most of the movie, but also with the scenes dealing with Tim Curry and Tom Wilkinson's squabbling doctors who are trying to constantly one up each other.

     Now Burke and Hare isn't for everyone as this is a black comedy. A good example of the comedy is when Hare is strangling an unfortunate, he just casually looks to Burke and says this is Burking someone and says that Burke is now famous due to this. Pegg face at this is priceless. The film is filled with scenes like this throughout. While not every scene works like it should, mostly scenes dealing with Fisher's character, it doesn't destroy the movie but it does bog it down in those spots. Thankfully those bog downs don't last very long though. I was laughing through most of the film, but then again I love black humor and this movie is full of it with Landis back in form finally. Now the sad thing is that this movie will probably never play in theaters here in the States, which is a shame as a set period comedy of this caliber is very rare now. If you can find a copy of it have fun and enjoy a return of old school comedy by one of the best as it's a must watch.

     This is easily Christopher Lee's death bed scene.

     You know William, I had confidence in a fart once. Then I shat all over myself!

     Burke and Hare is the first full length movie Landis has directed since 1998's Susan's Plan.

     David Tennant was originally scheduled to play William Hare but NBC wouldn't let him out of contract due to if a pilot he shot was picked up for a full series for fear of scheduling conflicts.

      Actors Jenny Agutter and and John Woodvine rejoin John Landis, who all previously worked on An American Werewolf In London in 1981.

     The Museum of the Department of Anatomy at Edinburgh University in Scotland has the skeleton of William Burke on display. Look below if you don't believe me.

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