The Flesh and the Fiends

January 28, 2012 7 Min Read

Review by: Fusion3600

Plot: What’s it about?

Dr. Robert Knox (Peter Cushing) wants to make real progress in medicine research, but he also knows the only way to do so is frowned upon, to say the least. Knox needs to work with real corpses in order to test his research, which of course, most people view as an atrocity and as such, Knox is unable to continue his work. But when two immigrants, Burke (George Rose) and Hare (Donald Pleasance) need some income and learn of Knox’s special needs, they begin to supply him with fresh corpses, in exchange for cold, hard cash. Knox is not too pleased with the situation, but he needs the bodies and as such, agrees to form a partnership, though he is very uneasy about the whole premise. It all goes well for a while, but when bodies become scarce, the two immigrants choose a new path, to create their corpses. The vagrants in the area soon turn up dead, then get tossed onto Knox’s table, much to his displeasure. He wishes to keep his research alive however, so he turns a blind eye toward the capture process. But when one of his own students is killed, he knows he must formulate a plan and soon, or else risk not only losing his practice, but perhaps even his own life.

The Euroshock Collection from Image is one of my personal favorite lines available, so I was pleased to see The Flesh and the Fiends released as part of the series. In addition to a new anamorphic transfer of the U.K. cut of the film, Image has also included the Continental version, which features added violence and nudity, also in a new anamorphic transfer. How cool is that? I mean, that is better than any kind of supplement I think, since you’re given two versions of the flick on one disc, right? The film itself is a very cool one, with an eerie premise based on real life events, which makes them even creepier, if you ask me. As directed by Hammer regular John Gilling, The Flesh and the Fiends has stark, atmospheric visuals also, so this movie has no lack of tension, not by any means. Some great use of shadows is evident, so the choice of black & white photography was a wise one, I think. Add in a solid performance from genre master Peter Cushing and you’re in business, without a doubt. I recommend The Flesh and the Fiends to horror fans and suspense completists, as well as anyone interested in body snatching pictures.

If you ask me, Peter Cushing makes any horror movie a little better, as long as he has a good role to work with. He is given a very good one here and he is able to turn in a wonderful performance, though might find it a tad over the top at times. Cushing seems to be having some fun with the role, as he plays it to the hilt in most scenes, sometimes almost going too far, though he manages to catch himself most of the time. I suppose he might have done research into the real life Dr. Knox, but if not, he still paints a believable character, to be sure. His Dr. Knox is eerie and very mysterious, just as such as a character should be played, I think. You can also see Cushing in such films as Shock Waves, The Satanic Rites of Dracula, Horror Express, The Blood Beast Terror, and Frankenstein Created Woman. The cast also includes Donald Pleasance (Halloween, Prince of Darkness), George Rose (The Pink Jungle, The Devil’s Disciple), and June Laverick (The Duke Wore Jeans, The Son of Robin Hood).

Video: How does it look?

The Flesh and the Fiends is presented in a 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer. Both versions have been issued in new anamorphic editions, which should thrill fans to no end, I think. I’ve seen this movie under the title of The Fiendish Ghouls, but the image provided here is a large improvement, to say the least. I was very impressed by the print condition and aside from some slight marks & grain, it looks as clean as could be. The black & white image is never hampered by those print defects, so the picture looks sharp and very refined, which is great news. The detail level is high at all times, while the contrast remains balanced, which means nothing is ever obscured. Both versions of the film look terrific here and while new viewers should be pleased, fans will be stunned by how clean and refined this image is, kudos to Image here.

Audio: How does it sound?

I don’t have a lot to say about the mono options used here, but rest assured, the basics are more than covered. I was unable to hear much in terms of age related errors, which is good news, as some mono tracks can be plagued by age signs. The dialogue is a little thin, but that is to be expected, while sound effects and such sound more than solid. All in all, a rather basic, but effective audio track, which more than handles the material, I think.

Supplements: What are the extras?

This disc includes an alternate title sequence (under the title of Mania), a selection of still photos & promotional materials, talent files, and the film’s theatrical trailer (under the title of The Fiendish Ghouls). I consider having two versions of the film a bonus also, but I have not included that information into the final extras score.

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