Posts Tagged ‘Stephen Rea’

Movie Reviews 383 – The Doctor and the Devils (1985)

March 15, 2019

The sordid true life tale of how Victorian era tomb robbers Burke and Hare provided cadavers for doctors for anatomical study is a tale that has been lensed several times over the years, one such being The Body Snatcher (1945) starring Boris Karloff and Bela Lugosi. As the story goes, the enterprising thieves got greedy and instead of simply waiting for opportunities to seize and sell the bodies of the recently deceased, they decided that it was quicker and more profitable to just knock off a few specimens earlier to meet the demand. Not only did their victims fetch an immediate return but, because they could choose healthier and younger specimens, those bodies fetched an even higher price.

The Doctor and the Devils is yet another take on the story in which a young ambitious lecturer Dr. Rock (Timothy Dalton), ever looking for quality subjects, ends up tempting poor vagrants Fallon and Broom (Jonathan Pryce and Stephen Rea respectively) to sate his demands. While the practice of acquiring bodies for scientific studies was permitted at the time, it was highly regulated and only certain cadavers, such as those of dead prisoners were legitimately distributed. This was not acceptable to Rock, and as he acquired more and more bodies, often dissecting them in his operating arena classroom, the number and suspect high quality began to raise eyebrows, notably that of Professor Macklin (Patrick Stewart), Rock’s superior and Rock’s very assistant, Dr. Murray (Julian Sands). It all unravels when Murray discovers that Rock’s latest acquisition is the best friend of the girl he has been trying to charm, one of the local town prostitutes (sixties model Twiggy).

The narrative of the central story works well enough but there are a number of odd and unevenly handled portions of the story that make it a bit frustrating. Rock’s wife is an anatomical artist which supposedly makes her a disrespectful woman that already casts Rock in a bad light in society. The evidence of Rock’s wrongdoings are quite clear from the very beginning yet it takes Macklin and the authorities forever to act on their suspicions. Murray’s chasing Twiggy is a significant part of the story so you can pretty much tell that this will be Rock’s downfall early on in the film. And of course Twiggy being, well Twiggy, she does have her own out of place song in this film (guess it was part of her contract) which, while lovely, is just an awkward and unnecessary mood swing that really does not fit in.

Directed by legendary Hammer director Freddie Francis, this film was actually based on a screenplay by celebrated Welsh poet Dylan Thomas who himself died under some strange circumstances.

The strength in the film come from Pryce and Rea’s performances and their characters. Just about everyone else including Dalton just slow things down to the point of being tedious until the miscreants show up again. If you can stand the unnecessary straying from the central plot it’s not that bad a film but go for The Body Snatcher if you have to choose one or the other.

 

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Movie Reviews 323 – The Crying Game (1992)

December 8, 2017

Many movies have defining moments, ones that change the direction or perspective of the story. Other movies have memorable scenes where either great acting or dialogue have become quintessential moments of cinematic history. But I can only think of one movie, The Crying Game, where one particular scene not only changes perspectives, but defines what the movie is really all about. The jolt not only changes the entire plot but also the very nature of the film. And in this film, what a scene it is!

I will begin by making it clear that I will not divulge that surprise for those that have not seen the film and have managed to not having it spoiled by the media or other means. But the scene in question is so dynamic that any discussion of the film pretty much begins with that one scene. In a way those people who still don’t know about it are to be envied the shock that awaits them.

Set sometime in the 1980’s during North Ireland’s “Troubles” the film begins as a typical political thriller with the IRA capturing and holding Jody (Forest Whitaker), an off duty British soldier. Fergus (Stephen Rea), one of the more reluctant abductors, befriends his captive much to the chagrin of his more militant IRA peers (Miranda Richardson and Adrian Dunbar). The narrative settles on that friendship and the threat of Jody’s death lest the demands of the abductors not be met. Indeed the growing bond between the two could have been the entire plot and it would have been satisfying enough. But the circumstances on how the kidnapping ends has Fergus seeking Jody’s former girlfriend Dil (Jaye Davidson) without telling her of his former connection to Jody.

Whether the initial interest was simply guilt laden or some other unknown reason, once Fergus injects himself into Dil’s world the attraction between the two grows despite each having reservations at first. Fergus’ reluctance is understood given the real connection to Dil but she too is hesitant just when commitment seems evident. What Dil eventually reveals stuns both Fergus and the audience. To say that it changes everything is an understatement. Dealing with that revelation elicits soul searching and uncertainty between the characters, and I suspect the audience just as much. As confusing as it is for Fergus he is them confronted by the return of some of his old IRA peers who have perilous plans for him.

The movie makes constant use and references to the fable of The Scorpion and the Frog which ponders the nature of man and whether one can change that nature, perfectly capturing the essence of this film.

For a real 1990’s throwback enjoy Boy George (remember him?) singing the title theme song which had actually been around long before the movie. The song selection in the score contains a few other choice tunes reflective of the plot and all I’ll say is that this is all apropos once you see this movie.