The Doctor And The Devils has a fascinating story behind it but it’s one that few people have gotten to hear since its 1985 release. A pan-and-scan original VHS did the film’s ‘scope framing no favors and a widescreen DVD improved things but lacked extras to explain the tale behind the tale. Luckily for gothic horror fans, The Doctor And The Devils was recently picked up by Scream Factory — and their new blu-ray edition of this title offers a package that gives this curious little item some much needed context.
Things start well with a solid transfer. This title was shot in a diffused style on a type of film (Fujicolor) that favors a softer look so the hi-def bump is subtle here. That said, the earthy color scheme looks nice and rich and the source used is free of blemishes. The audio component of this transfer is a DTS presentation of the original 2.0 stereo mix. The mix is nice and clear — though some viewers will appreciate the presence of English subtitles when dealing with the thick accents used by some of the cast.
Scream Factory has also included a few extras that take the viewer into the intriguing story behind this title. The key extra is a commentary by film historian Steve Haberman, who provides an engaging and thoroughly researched track that is bursting at the seams with info. He starts off with a history of the real Burke and Hare murders (including some incidents more chilling that the film itself) and then moves into the history of Dylan Thomas’ screenplay and the hands it passed through in its thirty year journey to the screen.
Haberman also addresses other Burke and Hare-themed films, provides capsule bios for several major players in the cast and crew, gives an account of the film’s shoot and goes into why the film got such a hit-and-miss release. In short, it’s the kind of track that will delight fans interested in horror history and stacks up nicely alongside Haberman’s recent work for Scream Factory on The Vincent Price Collection II.
There is also an interview with the production team of Mel Brooks, Jonathan Sanger and Randy Auerbach. Brooks is the ringleader of this piece, starting off with an explanation of why doesn’t take a producer credit on the films he doesn’t direct and then interviewing Sanger and Auerbach about the history of The Doctor And The Devils. The other two participants provide plenty of details on how the film was produced quickly and cheaply in England. Brooks supplies plentiful humor as well as an interesting observation about the idea making films through “friends and favors” has died in modern, profit-obsessed Hollywood.
The extras package closes with a brief theatrical trailer. Though the style of editing tries to punch the film up and make it look more like a thriller, it actually does a decent job of communicating the film’s premise and themes.
In short, Scream Factory has done well by horror fans with this disc. Anyone who loves the classic Hammer/antiquarian-gothic style will find this disc of The Doctor And The Devils a nice accessory to add to their collection.
To read Schlockmania’s film review of The Doctor And The Devils, click here.