Forgotten Horror – The Anatomist (1956)

Summer of Forgotten Horror – Week 1: The Anatomist (1956)
Cast:      Alastair Sim as Dr. Knox
George Cole as Dr. Walter Anderson
Adrienne Cori as Mary Peterson
Michael Ripper as Hare
Diarmuid Kelly as Burke

Based on the play written by James Bridie
Adapted by Denis Webb
Directed by Dennis Vance

The anatomist 1954Plot: Another retelling of the classic Burke and Hare story. Dr. Knox requires bodies for his medical research, employing the questionable Burke and Hare to acquire what he needs. He does not question where the bodies came from, which ultimately leads to trouble with the local authorities. Meanwhile, Amelia Bishop has caught the eye of Knox while her sister, Mary Belle, is to marry Walter Anderson, who also works for Knox.

Personal Thoughts:

There are definitely better and more horrific versions of the real-life tale of Burke and Hare, such as The Body Snatcher (1945) with Boris Karloff or The Flesh and the Fiends (1959) with Peter Cushing. However, having relished my annual viewings of Scrooge (1951) for decades now, seeing Alastair Sim play another role was really quite enjoyable. His performance here is amazing and quite fun. The movie is a bit too wordy but there is quite a bit of humor buried within, making it quite worthwhile if you’re looking for less horror and more comedy-drama. The most chilling of scenes takes place in the bar with Burke and Hare, not surprising considering the presence of Hammer alumni Michael Ripper. That said, it’s worth tracking down if you’re a fan of either Sim or Ripper. The talented cast saves what could have been an otherwise forgettable effort.

The anatomist 1954 2Trivia:

  • George Cole had starred alongside Alastair Sim in Scrooge (1951), playing the younger Scrooge. Therefore, he never shared screen time with Sim.
  • Made for British television as an ITV Play of the Week, it suffers from a low budget. It comes across more like a stage play at times, clearly a limitation of early British television.
  • This was also released theatrically in 1961.


  • Never released commercially, it is available as burn-on-demand DVD from Sinister Cinema. The 16mm print is good and worth adding to your collection if you are a fan of Alastair Sim or Michael Ripper.

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