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Burke and Hare


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#1 Tim Partridge

Tim Partridge
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Posted 29 October 2010 - 06:07 AM

I thought this was a very funny film and encourage anyone who loves a more traditional style of comedy to go see it. I thought John Landis really managed to make a sincere old dark comedy in the Ealing vein, but I felt was very close to the directorial spirit of Alexander MacKendrick. With the Scottish setting and opening narration, even the music, I had a slight feeling of Whiskey Galore rather than say the recent St Trinians movies. The script manages to make an unusually moving and dignified piece, I think somewhat loosely based on the real serial killers. The story is well told, tight and easy to follow. The performances are spot on, particularly Andy Serkis and Tim Curry. Simon Pegg is very likable and provides a lead to engage with.

Photography wise I thought this was beautiful. Again, I thought this more McKendrick in style than Landis. I liked that it's shot like a straight period film rather than a comedy. I didn't notice any of the trademark cartoony Landis wide angle shots (which I love), but I think the camera moves still never overshadow the action, and there are countless instances of inventive master shots for physical comedy. One such instance involves the main characters chasing a rolling barrel. I think Landis still with so little can run circles around most of the best comedy directors working today, and this is textbook comedy staging.

John Mathieson's impressive lighting is very sourcey looking, appearing very low key as if lit by candles on interiors and nights or dull overcast light for the day shots. Often I noticed moving sources or scenes lit by table top, and yet the look is always consistently low key but traditionally elegant looking, very flattering on the actors, like a Vermeer. As I mentioned before, I like that there were longer focal length lenses in this, giving the film a real period feel as though you are watching the real thing, rather than a cartoon, comedy satire of events. The image to my eyes looked soft and grainy in a wonderfully textured way, and I thought I saw quite a few soft shots in there too, but they work and don't distract at all (and maybe they shot in really low light so it's understandable) because the image always has contrast.

The late Robert Paynter makes a cameo in a surgeon's conference, sitting next to Ray Harryhausen, recalling their scene together in Landis' Spies Like Us! Paynter also gets credited twice in the film: Once in a Landis style outtake with Harryhausen, with both of their names in huge letters below the screen, and in the final end credit crawl. Very touching send off for Landis' most frequent DP and a wonderful cinematographer.
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