The Doctor and the Devils

Directed by Freddie Francis

> > Sep 2005

The Doctor and the Devils - Directed by Freddie Francis
By Travis Mackenzie HooverYou always have to look askance at anyone who would rewrite Dylan Thomas, but this 1985 reworking of his un-produced screenplay has enough random pleasures to compensate. The 19th-century tale centres on Dr. Thomas Rock (Timothy Dalton), a surgeon who needs dead bodies to test on; tired of the too few executed criminals he's allowed by law, he hires petty criminals Fallon (Jonathan Pryce) and Bloom (Stephen Rea) to steal him some fresh corpses. Unfortunately, the unscrupulous duo hit upon the idea that murder would be a better way to procure unsullied cadavers. One can see the belated social commentary peeking out through the cracks (it would make a nice double bill with From Hell), but mostly this is the kind of entertainingly funky movie you'd expect from an ex-Hammer and Amicus director like Freddie Francis. If the film moves at a breakneck clip that isn't conductive to chills, it's lovably disreputable in a lost, mid-'80s way and offers the bizarre spectacle of Pryce as a lower-class grave robber and a prostitute who's played, honest to God, by Twiggy herself. It's a film that thrives on filth and hypocrisy, with Dalton giving highfalutin speeches on the importance of medical research while his henchmen defile the very name of medicine, and though it has little conviction it's still a juicy riposte to the Merchant Ivory/David Lean approach to quality Britannia. Much of it is haphazard and sloppy, but it's zestily put together and straddles genre lines to the point that highbrows and cult fanciers alike will have much to swoon over. (Fox)



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