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Projecting the Archive

The Flesh and the Fiends

+ intro by Jonathan Rigby, author of English Gothic

This delightfully dark retelling of the Burke and Hare story features a brilliant cast.

Image from The Flesh and the Fiends + intro by Jonathan Rigby, author of English Gothic

UK 1959
Dir John Gilling
With Peter Cushing, Donald Pleasence, June Laverick
94min
35mm
Certificate 12A

To celebrate Donald Pleasence’s centenary, join us for one of the most striking performances of his early screen career. In this retelling of the Burke and Hare story, Pleasence is flesh-crawlingly unctuous as the shabby-genteel psychopath Hare; just as good are George Rose as his oafish confederate, Peter Cushing as the fastidious anatomist they supply with suspiciously fresh ‘subjects’, and Billie Whitelaw as the firebrand prostitute who comes between them.John Gilling’s film was ahead of its time in its fusion of graphic horror and gallows humour, with a grimy period flavour worthy of Hogarth or Dickens and a cynical tone prefiguring Witchfinder General. Pleasence himself called it ‘a really atmospheric film’ – and as a historical horror it has few equals.


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