SFFF Day 1 Report – Four Killers and a Dog

Even before I arrived in Saskatoon, I felt like Fantastic Film Festival-action was meeting me like a herald of things to come. It had something to do with the man waiting at my flight’s gate conspicuously wearing a black eyepatch that threatened spy movie villainy. It also had something to do with the man behind me in security and his laptop that tested positive for “explosive residue.” Fortunately for me, action-thrillers weren’t slated until Day 2 of the Saskatoon Fantastic Film Festival and my flight proceeded without complication, bringing me to Day 1 of SFFF and a block of films featuring some disturbed title characters.

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The Flesh and the Fiends (John Gilling, 1960)

MURDER WAS THEIR BUSINESS!

AV_Inferno_DVD_.inddEdinburgh.  1827.  The Scottish capital is the world leader in medical research but a scarcity of legally available cadavers has caused medical schools to turn to “resurrectionists,” grave-robbers selling freshly buried (and not so freshly buried) bodies liberated from local graveyards.  Irish immigrants Burke (George Rose) and Hare (Donald Pleasence) join the ranks of the body-snatchers, striking up an uneasy business relationship with eminent surgeon Dr. Robert Knox (Peter Cushing) and quickly deciding to speed the process along by murdering the poor and the homeless.  Men and women, old and young, everyone becomes a target for the deadly duo, but even as the body count rises, Knox turns a blind eye to their methods in order to further his research.  When Burke and Hare go too far and murder a well known figure of the Edinburgh slums, the public goes mad for the killers’ blood and Dr. Knox’s conspiracy is revealed with harrowing consequences.

John Gilling’s The Flesh and the Fiends is a forgotten and under-appreciated classic of British horror, a historical thriller with a disturbingly black heart that is made all the darker for having told the true account of Scotland’s most famous serial killers.  Violent and salacious, yet grand and expressionistic, The Flesh and the Fiends is presented here, for the first time, in high-definition presentations of both the British and the infamous “Continental” cuts of the film.

Special Features:

  • New high definition digital transfer of the British cut of The Flesh and the Fiends and of the “Continental” version with added scenes of nudity and violence shot for the more permissive European market
  • High Definition Blu-ray (1080p) and Standard DVD Presentation
  • Uncompressed monaural soundtrack on the Blu-ray edition
  • Optional English SDH subtitles for the deaf and hard of hearing
  • New interview with director Joe Dante and graphic artist Charlie Largent on The Flesh and the Fiends and its subsequent versions
  • In Search of Burke and Hare, a documentary on the West Port murders by David Street and hosted by David Hayman
  • Theatrical trailer for The Fiendish Ghouls, the shortened US re-release version of the film
  • Alternate title sequence from Mania, the first US version of the film
  • Gallery of photos, posters, and lobby cards
  • Collector’s booklet featuring an essay by genre writer Jonathan Sothcott and film scholar Edwin Samuelson

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