Halloween Countdown: The Body Snatcher

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(In anticipation of the coolest day of the year, this month-long series will offer one recommended horror flick a day up through Oct. 31.)

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THE BODY SNATCHER (1945). In his book Alternate Oscars, author Danny Peary states that Boris Karloff deserved the 1945 Best Actor Academy Award for The Body Snatcher. Snobs will snicker, but Peary isn't far off the mark. Karloff delivers a masterful turn in this adaptation of Robert Louis Stevenson's short story, with Robert Wise (later of West Side Story and The Sound of Music fame) providing the direction and producer Val Lewton supplying the script (under his pseudonym Carlos Keith). The horror icon stars as Mr. Gray, a coachman who steals bodies on the side for a venal doctor (Henry Daniell). Karloff's nothing short of commanding in an unexpectedly complex role, and he shares a couple of scenes with his frequent '30s co-star Bela Lugosi, here relegated to a bit part as Daniell's sneaky servant. This was the first of three movies Karloff made with the esteemed Lewton; the subsequent titles — both highly recommended — were 1945’s Isle of the Dead and 1946’s Bedlam.

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