The Doctor And The Devils

The Doctor And The Devils (1985)
20th Century Fox Home Entertainment
Cast: Timothy Dalton, Jonathan Pryce, Stephen Rea, Twiggy

I had never heard of "The Doctor And The Devils" but the DVD looked intriguing when it arrived, so I decided to give the film a check-up. As it turns out, the movie is a gothic little thriller that has a lot in common with the great Hammer Films where atmosphere and style took the front seat. A quick glimpse at the credits, quickly reveals, why. It has been directed by Hammer veteran Freddie Francis, who created some of the most visually striking films the studio ever put out.

In "The Doctor And The Devils" we witness the true story of Dr. Thomas Rock (Timothy Dalton), a surgeon in Victorian London who is hellbent on furthering the world's knowledge about the human anatomy in order to perform proper surgeries, understand the workings of the human body and thus remedy ailments and diseases that plagued the world at the time.
In order to do this he needs bodies to dissect. He is being allocated the bodies of hanged criminals by the government but it's not nearly enough to fulfill his needs. As a result he is paying grave robbers to steal bodies freshly from their graves. Two men, Fallon (Jonathan Pryce) and Broom (Stephen Rea), see that as their opportunity to riches. They begin providing Dr. Rock with the freshest bodies they can find and eventually even begin murdering people for the sole purpose to sell their bodies to the doctor. But for how long can the doctor turn his head from this obvious criminal behavior in order to further his studies?

The film features a wonderful cast. Timothy Dalton is stone cold and calculating as Dr. Rock, completely obsessed with his ideals and intentions. It is, however, Jonathan Pryce and Stephen Rea, who leave the most lasting impression as the remorseless grave robbers-gone-murders. Especially Pryce becomes a regular killing machine and the actor gradually changes from a likeable character to a complete maniac, one step at a time.

The movie's production design is also wonderful. Never has London looked more grimy and run-down. This is the East End the way it must have looked like. Rotten, filthy, stinking and perverted. No film I can remember has ever depicted it so faithfully. Add to that the wonderful cinematography that carries Francis' signature all over, and you have a film that oozes atmosphere like the genre's best.

20th Century Fox Home Entertainment has created a great-looking transfer for this film. It features both an anamorphic widescreen transfer in the movie's original 2.35:1 widescreen aspect ratio, as well as a cropped pan & scan version on the same disc. The image is free of any defects or blemishes and reveals a high level of detail throughout. Colors are strong and vibrant, and never bleed. Skin tones are naturally rendered giving the image a solid and balanced look throughout. The transfer's black levels are solid, creating deep shadows that never lose detail. No edge-enhancement is evident in the transfer, making for a great viewing.

The DVD features a Dolby Surround track in English as well as mono tracks in French and Spanish. All tracks are well produced and free of deficiencies. Dialogues are well integrated and always understandable, never being drowned out by the music or sound effects. A good dynamic range and natural frequency response also adds to the solid presentation of the film. Subtitles in English and Spanish are also included in the release.

Sadly no extras have added to the film. While not really surprising it would nonetheless have been great to see some bonus materials.

At only $14.99 this release is a little gem. Full of striking visuals, a captivating story and the original Hammer feel, fans of the genre will eat this release up, no doubt.