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The Doctor And The Devils (Blu-ray Review)

Doctor-And-The-DevilsWhen most people think of Mel Brooks, they always turn to the funny.  Whether it be television with Get Smart or most notably his incredible directorial run of movies like The Producers, Blazing Saddles, Young Frankenstein and History Of The World: Part 1, that’s what he’s pretty much made his bread and butter on.  However, he was also an active producer as well, and not limited to just comedy.  Did you know Mel Brook produced David Lynch’s The Elephant Man?  He indeed did.  Scream Factory is releasing another film you wouldn’t think of being attached to Mel Brooks, but it is, called The Doctor And The Devils from 1985.  It stars James Bond, Jean Luc Picard and Elliot Carver.  Or Timothy Dalton, Patrick Stewart and Jonathan Pryce.

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Film 

Dr. Thomas Rock lives in a time where he struggles in the battle of faith over science.  He secretly is paying people to grave rob for him to provide with him with human corpses in order to do his anatomy research.  In these times it was unethical to do these kind of proceedings on humans.  Two greedy grave robbers get a bit too ambitious on the “no questions asked, here’s your money” policy Dr. Rock has and begin to commit murders in order to supply the bodies.

The Doctor And The Devils is a really solid, unique horror thriller that feels like 1985’s throwback and production enhancement on the old 60s Hammer horror film.  Its got a much more raw, tight and dirty realistic take on the classic gothic aesthetic.  The town almost feels like its living next door to Tim Burton’s Sweeney Todd.  Costuming isn’t as lavish as those films were, they’re more beaten, worn and dirty and the townsfolk aren’t pretty, they’re pretty rough themselves.  The wealthy folk are cleaned up, but the common cockney’d civilians all need a bath and a toothbrush.

What really got me thrilled about this movie is its illustrious male British cast.  You get Timothy Dalton in his final release film before he was approved for a license to kill.  Dalton is of high prestige in this role and commands every frame with his presence.  I got to geek out too, when he gets to spar dramatics in a couple scenes with Patrick Stewart.  I could have watched nothing but those two going back and forth over conflict.  Jonathan Pryce, who would also later on go on to do a Bond film (as a villain), tries his best to steal the film as he’s in a role I’m not particularly used to seeing him in.  He’s pretty much a rat bastard.  You also get looks at young Julian Sands and Stephen Rea.  The scene chewing and finesse acting truly elevates this film to a higher level.

This film isn’t really gory or very much scary at all either.  The most horrifying part is that its actually based on a true story.  The grave robbers and Dalton’s character were all real people.  They are known in history as the West Port Murders.  All the names of those involved in the film have been changed, but these were indeed real people.  Before being caught, the murders and exchange of corpses wound up totaling a body count of seventeen individuals.  Once this whole operation had been uncovered, the real life Dr. Rock’s career was ruined.  Also, this is only one of four films to be made based on the Burke and Hare murders.  Most of them were made around the time it was a more known case.  The Doctor And The Devils actually took thirty two years to finally be produced.

If you’re into Gothic period set horror films, this is perfect.  No, its not spooky or scary, but it is pretty thrilling and features a wonderful conflict of a man trying to battle religious binds of his time in order to progress the research of the human body.  All these well known British thespians but on a scene chewing extravaganza and make this one enjoyable ride.  Its a film I’d never seen before this viewing, but definitely look forward to revisiting in the near future or maybe for some subsequent Halloween time horror movie viewings.

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Video 

Encoding: MPEG-4 AVC

Resolution: 1080p

Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1

Clarity/Detail:   The image does rather show some good detail work.  You can make out textures of the wall paper in Timothy Dalton’s office as well as make out dirt patterns and cobblestones on the street.  The image does fall a bit soft and at sometimes the display looks a little blurry.

Depth: Depth is about average here with some highlighted areas.  The classroom scenes and ones inside Dr. Rock’s home look neatly three dimensional.

Black Levels:  The blacks are hit and miss here.  Color wise they are accurately displayed.  At times (a classroom scene) you can perfectly make out Timothy Dalton’s full head of hair.  Others there is detail being hidden and you can’t make out any sort of pattern or texture on dark colored clothing or surfaces.

Color Reproduction:  Colors are natural and well fulfilled.  The palette for the film uses nothing extravagant.  Its browns and dirtied whites for the most part.

Flesh Tones:  Flesh tones are natural and consistent.  At minimal times they do look a little bit smooth.  But in close ups you get a good look at dirt, pores, scuffs and stubble.

Noise/Artifacts:  There are some pretty grainy sequences as well as few blurry ones (but that may be due to the camera work).

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Audio 

Audio Format(s): English 2.0 DTS-HD MA

Subtitles: English

Dynamics:  This is a loud and very active little 2.0 track.  Foley work is really distinct, present and lifelike.  There’s a lot of good volume work and interplay between right and left speakers.  The audio is also very clean and seems to overachieve in its presence.

Low Frequency Extension: N/A

Surround Sound Presentation: N/A

Dialogue Reproduction:  Dialogue is loud, centered and picks up every breath of each character’s voice.

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Extras 

The Doctor And The Devils has reverse artwork in its insert that features a promotional image from the film.

Audio Commentary

  • With Historian Steve Haberman

Interview With Producer Johnathan Sanger and Executive Producers Mel Brooks and Randy Auerbach (HD, 15 min) – This is really cool, they actually got Mel Brooks to sit down for this.  Its basically he and the other producers sitting down and chatting about the film as well as Brooks’ history of producing.

Theatrical Trailer (SD, 1:31)

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Summary 

Here is a neat little Gothic horror film that has some high profile names in the cast that I think time maybe forgot (I’m sure there is a cult of fans that know this one by heart though, I’m talking more general people).  Its got a good video transfer and the audio track is pretty dynamite.  There isn’t much in the way of bonus material, but the interview is really nifty in my opinion and the commentary sheds plenty of light on the production from an outsider.  Fans of the film will enjoy it hitting the high def format and I think this is one the collectors should pick up as I forsee it possibly being a rare item in the future.  Check this one out.

Doctor-And-The-Devils-Blu-ray

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Writer/Reviewer, lifelong obsessive film nerd. As eager to educate in the world of film as I am to learn. An avid lover of horror, schlock and trash, Brandon hosts the Cult Cinema Cavalcade podcast on the Creative Zombie Studios Network (www.cultcinemacavalcade.com) You can also find more essays on his blog Naptown Nerd (naptownnerd.blogspot.com).

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