Burke and Hare

September 9th, 2011


Burke and Hare

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Still of Tom Wilkinson in Burke and HareStill of Tom Wilkinson in Burke and HareBurke and HareStill of Simon Pegg and Andy Serkis in Burke and HareStill of Tim Curry in Burke and HareBurke and Hare

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

Release Year: 2010

Rating: 6.1/10 (6,892 voted)

Critic's Score: 46/100

Director: John Landis

Stars: Bill Bailey, Tom Wilkinson, Michael Smiley

Based on the true story about the famous murderers, 'Burke And Hare' follows the hapless exploits of these two men as they fall into the highly profitable business of providing cadavers for the medical fraternity in Nineteenth Century Edinburgh, then the centre of medical learning. The one thing they were short of was bodies.

Writers: Piers Ashworth, Nick Moorcroft

Bill Bailey - Hangman
Tom Wilkinson - Doctor Robert Knox
Michael Smiley - Patterson
Tim Curry - Doctor Monro
Paul Davis - Patient
Christian Brassington - Charles
Gabrielle Downey - Mad Maggie
Stuart McQuarrie - Magistrate
Simon Pegg - William Burke
Andy Serkis - William Hare
Mike Goodenough - Aggrieved Customer
Jessica Hynes - Lucky
Robert Fyfe - Old Donald
Robert Willox - Gravediggers' Bouncer
David Schofield - Fergus

Taglines: No Job Too Small. No Body Too Big. No Questions Asked.


Official Website: Official Facebook | Official Facebook [France] |

Release Date: 9 September 2011

Filming Locations: Dashwood Mausoleum, West Wycombe, Buckinghamshire, England, UK

Opening Weekend: £942,894 (UK) (31 October 2010) (390 Screens)

Gross: $4,349,187 (Worldwide) (15 September 2011)

Technical Specs


Did You Know?

Actors Jenny Agutter, David Schofield and John Woodvine rejoin director John Landis after almost 30 years since they first collaborated on An American Werewolf in London.

Continuity: In the "multiple dissection" scene Tom Wilkinson uncovers each of the four dead bodies one at a time. But, following a quick edit to the applauding students, in a closer shot one of the bodies is covered up again.

William Burke: She is an actress, not a whore.
William Hare: What's the difference?

User Review

The biggest challenge the story faced was turning two mass murderers into characters you can follow, laugh with and have empathy for and I think this film does it really well.

Rating: 8/10

Released just in time for Halloween is the macabre tale of Burke and Hare! Set in 1820's Edinburgh, two Irish immigrants, William Burke (Simon Pegg) and William Hare (Andy Serkis), try one business venture after the next, and one after the next they fail. Just at the point where they're about to face financial ruin, the duo come up with an ingenious idea when they spot a in the niche in the market for the supply and demand of fresh dead bodies which manages to turn their fortunes around.

The story is inspired by true events which took place in Edinburgh between November 1827 and 31 October 1828 when the real life Bukre and Hare murdered 16 people and sold their bodies to a private anatomy lecturer, Doctor Robert Knox (played by Tom Wilkinson in the film), for dissection at Edinburgh Medical College. Although this is the 8th time their story has been brought to the big screen, this marks the first time that we see them as two likable lead characters.

From a screenplay penned by Nick Moorcroft and Piers Ashworth and directed by the legendary John Landis, Burke And Hare harks back to the days of the old Ealing Studios dark comedies like Kind Hearts and Coronets (1949) and The Ladykillers (1955) which director John Landis is very fond of. It looks at the friendship between these two guys and focuses on the idea of who the bad guys really are. The doctors or the killers themselves? Mixing in a little Shakespeare with an all female production of Macbeth by Isla Fisher's character, Ginny, an aspiring young actress whom Burke falls madly in love with, another layer is added to the story. While Ginny ponders what would drive a man like Macbeth to murder, Burke looks at her and explains the character's motivation; "He did it for love".

By and large, I really enjoyed Bukre and Hare. The biggest challenge the story faced was turning two mass murderers into characters you can follow, laugh with and have empathy for and I think this film does it really well. As Burke is talked into the business with Hare, there's never the slightest feeling that his friend is purposefully leading him down a path to his own downfall, unlike the real Hare who gave Burke up in the end to escape a public hanging. Another element of the movie which was enjoyable was seeing so many familiar faces turning up in smaller roles; Ronnie Corbett decked out in his red and blue uniform as Captain McLintock, Christopher Lee as Old Joseph, one of Buke and Hare's early unfortunates and perhaps the most hilarious scene of all is when they push Paul Whitehouse down a flight of stairs! It's a good one to see if you're after something dark and funny this Halloween.


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