The big picture

  • Comedies around the topic of serial murder are bold and praiseworthy, they challenge taboos and untouchable topics.
  • Burke & Hare
    is a pitch-black comedy that adapts the true story of two twisted businessmen who made a living selling corpses to a medical university, played in the film by Simon Pegg and Andy Serkis.
  • The film combines macabre humor, a talented cast and a morbid true story to create an interesting and entertaining film despite its mixed reviews.

Comedy is a subjective thing. What people find funny has always been incredibly diverse, from political satire to slapstick gags to clever wordplay to gross jokes. Which joke or gag is considered funny and which is considered tasteless then depends on the values ​​of the environment in which the joke is told. Basically everything may can be funny in the right context, even death, but there is one subject that just about everyone, regardless of culture, would agree is no laughing matter: serial killers. Regardless of the context, the act of a seemingly normal person deciding to murder innocent bystanders is not something to be taken lightly or laughed at… Or is it? Aren’t the world’s taboos and untouchable topics just challenges that comedy needs to overcome? Regardless of your stance, it is undeniable that an attempt at comedy around the theme of serial murder, particularly If it’s an adaptation of a real true crime story, it’s at least commendable for its boldness. Few comedies have attempted to make serial killers funny, but today’s film is one of the most direct attempts in mainstream cinema: 2010s Burke & Hare.

William Burke and William Hare were two real-life serial killers who terrorized the city of Edinburgh, Scotland, with at least 16 murders in 1828. Contrary to what you might expect, these men were not driven by passion like most serial killers. No, it was twisted businessmen who captured the untapped market of selling fresh corpses to Edinburgh Medical University. This dark and morally gray true crime story has been brought to the screen in the form of a pitch-black comedy by John Landis, Director of 80s comedy classics like blues brothers And Three amigos. The movie stars Shaun of the DeadS And Mission Impossibles Simon Pegg next to Andy Serkis – the legendary motion capture actor with roles from Lord of the Rings’ Gollum too The Planet of monkeys’ Caesar. It may sound like a tasteless attempt at comedy (and to many it was), but if your sense of humor is twisted enough, Burke & Hare offers an interesting adaptation of a fascinating true story that plays an integral role in the history of medical, ethical and legal advances, while maintaining a respectable sense of historical detail and a surprisingly lighthearted tone.

Burke and Hare

A black comedy about two 19th-century grave robbers who find a lucrative business providing corpses for an Edinburgh medical school.

Release date October 29, 2010

director John Landis

Duration 91

writer Piers Ashworth, Nick Moorcroft

What is Burke & Hare about?

The year is 1828 and we find ourselves in the mossy lands of the capital of Victorian Scotland. We are introduced to the climate of Edinburgh by none other than the city’s executioner (Bill Bailey, one of Britain’s most popular comedians), who sets the tone by addressing the audience directly: “Times are tough and people are doing everything they can to make ends meet.” Meanwhile, the two argue The city’s world-famous medical schools are engaged in a breakneck competition to advance medical science by any means possible. Organized crime and violence run rampant in the background, leaving the city in ruins, ready for vultures to come in and pick at the rubble. Enter the two titular murderers, William Burke (Pegg) and William Hare (Serkis), who initially spend their days being vultures and trying to come up with schemes and scams to get rich quickly. The pair are opportunistic and dishonest, but not at all murderous…yet. That won’t change for long when a certain event opens the floodgates and makes our two anti-heroes realize how easily they can thrive on death.


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After a lodger rents a room from Hare’s wife Lucky (Jessica Hynes), suddenly drops dead, the two make ridiculously quick money and a lot of money by selling the body to the local medical lecturer and anatomist Dr. Sell ​​Robert Knox (Tom Wilkinson). This could have been a one-time thing, but Knox then says, “Bring me more if you find some!” inspires the “entrepreneurial spirit” of both Williams. Although the pair initially steal corpses from graves to sell for medical research, they quickly move on to living and breathing victims in order to keep their body count high, their profits high, and their “product” as fresh and uncorrupted as possible . It’s the dark, dank and violent 19th century, where death lurks around every corner and life has little value compared to the corpses of the dead, so our two seemingly normal guys don’t have to deal too much with the moral problems of murder have to fight. .. After all, it’s all about business!

Dr. Knox happily continues to purchase the corpses of unknown origin that Burke and Hare “somehow” keep coming across, with no guilt in sight, because he plans to revolutionize humanity’s knowledge of anatomy by creating an anatomical map of the human body, the in his opinion means saving the lives of millions in exchange for a few nameless corpses. Knox also relies on the help of a clever and inventive Frenchman (Allan Corduner), who has built some kind of mysterious device that captures images in an instant photo. The three criminal accomplices continue to rise until their murderous affairs attract the attention of both the authorities and the local gangsters, while Burke and Hare enjoy a life of luxury thanks to the wealth they earn and the beautiful girls and love interests (Isla Fisher and Jessica Hynes), whose affection they buy until their diabolical greed causes their entire operation to inevitably collapse around them.

“Burke & Hare” is a decent comedy, powered primarily by its talented cast

Andy Serkis and Simon Pegg make a particularly charismatic slasher duo, and together they generate most of the film’s comedy through their great chemistry and banter. The rest of the humor consists of pitch-black slapstick gags of the most macabre kind, with the pair’s murders often ending in darkly comic scenarios, such as struggling to hide a corpse in a barrel and shattering the victim’s spine and it twisting it into a pretzel to squish it in, only to accidentally snatch the barrel from them as they roll it down a hill. Another example of the film’s particularly twisted humor is a scene in which the two casually chat about how they both want to die while sitting on the chest and face of a dying man (a surprise cameo from Christopher Lee), to fasten the process.

If you can’t find a way to find such situations funny, the film is definitely not for you, as few films make light of such dark situations Burke & Hare. It’s a film that didn’t work for many, as it was critically panned and viewed as far too dark and mean-spirited and a failed attempt to make its horrific subject matter and true story with real victims lighthearted. Although the film is far from a comedic tour de force, it stands out for its playful approach to murder and moronic slapstick comedy, highlighted by the electrifying chemistry of its star-studded cast, including Isla Fisher, Tom Wilkinson and… becomes Tim Currymakes the film an entertaining film, made all the more interesting by the fascinatingly morbid true story that is adapted.

The true story that “Burke & Hare” adapts is fascinating

The film’s true story proves fascinating as one learns the importance of the pair’s murderous contributions to the advancement of medical science and law. Their murders, and the morally bankrupt doctor who bought the bodies despite knowing exactly where they came from, provided a wealth of opportunities to study anatomy in conditions not easily found. The 16 autopsies that Dr. Knox, thanks to the duo, were an effective marketing strategy that attracted many new students to medical school out of sheer morbid curiosity, resulting in much-needed growth in the medical community. The couple’s murders also played a role in the drafting of the revolutionary government law called the Anatomy Act 1832, which led to a more civilized, humane and ethical form of medical advancement. But let’s not forget that despite their contribution to science, these guys were monsters!

The couple’s capture by Edinburgh police is also an interesting early example of a government cover-up, as the medical profession’s involvement in the murders has been ruled out by the courts – as has their active support. Through backdoor deals, William Hare was eventually offered a plea deal: if He After confessing to Burke and blaming him as if they were simple crimes of wild passion, all the doctors and other accomplices involved, including Hare’s wife, would be released. William Burke suffered doom, which ultimately led to his execution and, in a poetically ironic twist of fate, his autopsy by the influential Professor Monro (played in the film by Tim Curry). In fact, Burke’s skeleton is still on display at Edinburgh Medical School today.

Burke & Hare won’t make it onto anyone’s list of “favorite comedies,” but its simple and grisly humor combined with the historical accounts it portrays reasonably accurately make it a perfectly decent film, regardless of whether you’re a fan of either actor are or just enjoy funny twists in places where humor is usually nowhere to be found.

Burke & Hare is free to watch on Tubi in the US

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