The Body Snatcher (1945)

8.0 Overall Score
Story: 8/10
Acting: 8/10
Visuals: 8/10

Good looking film with a fun classic cast

The story could lose the paralyzed girl and be even darker

Movie Info

Movie Name:  The Body Snatcher

Studio:  RKO Radio Pictures

Genre(s):  Mystery/Suspense/Horror

Release Date(s):  May 25, 1945

MPAA Rating:  Not Rated


Snatch this body, sucker!

Dr. MacFarlane (Henry Daniell) is one of the premiere surgical teachers in Edinburgh in 1831 and he’s just taken on an assistant named Donald Fettes (Russell Wade) to aid in his work.  MacFarlane however has a secret; the bodies experimented on by students are often stolen bodies procured from a man named John Gray (Boris Karloff).  When the mother of a young girl with a spinal injury seeks out MacFarlane’s help, MacFarlane finds himself once again forced to turn to Gray…and the secret Gray knows about MacFarlane could destroy him!

Directed by Robert Wise, The Body Snatcher is an adaptation of the 1884 short story by Robert Lewis Stevenson.  The film was produced by Val Lewton who also is credited for part of the script adaptation.  The movie features the final screen pairing of horror masters Boris Karloff and Bela Lugosi.


This is the end of the line, old friend…

Despite having supernatural elements toward the end of the film, The Body Snatcher is more of a thriller than a classic horror monster movie.  With the story, the horror is more of a ghost story combined with a basic tale of terror along the lines of Poe (or like Stevenson’s other story The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde).  The rather straightforward tale does take a ghostly turn at the end in which MacFarlane thinks he can hear and see the body of Gray…driving him to his death.  It is a rather creepy scene, but like “The Tell-Tale Heart” all in the man’s head.

The cast is quite strong in a classic horror film sense.  You have both Boris Karloff and Bela Lugosi.  If you are a fan of classic horror, you should check out this movie just for this pairing.  A potential re-pairing in Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein (1948) never happened (Karloff helped promote the film but didn’t return as the Monster), so The Body Snatcher is the last chance for viewers to see them together.


I hate having a naked Boris Karloff leaning all over me!

The movie has a stylish noir shooting to it.  The film is very dark and shadowy.  The Scottish setting lends to this and allows a very dreary, wet looking environment.  The final sequence in the carriage is not as clean as it could be and does date the film unfortunately, but it still is classy and creepy.

The Body Snatcher is a good example of a suspense tale.  With a gothic feel and look, the story is clever and smart but the backstory of the little girl trying to walk is a little cliché.  You can often find the film as part of bigger movie packs or Val Lewton collections and it is worth your time.

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Author: JPRoscoe View all posts by
Follow me on Twitter/Instagram/Letterboxd @JPRoscoe76! Loves all things pop-culture especially if it has a bit of a counter-culture twist. Plays video games (basically from the start when a neighbor brought home an Atari 2600), comic loving (for almost 30 years), and a true critic of movies. Enjoys the art house but also isn't afraid to let in one or two popular movies at the same time.

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