Picks and Pans Review: The Doctor and the Devils
If pedigree alone could produce a good movie, The Doctor and the Devils would glide to glory. In the '40s Dylan Thomas wrote the original script that playwright Ronald (The Dresser) Harwood has adapted for this gothic drama. At some point this true story of an ethics versus science standoff may have accommodated the melancholy poetry and pungent morality that mark the Welsh poet's work, but as directed by Freddie (Legend of the Werewolf) Francis, it looks like Frankenstein played out on the set of Oliver! In late-19th-century England, a notorious scientist is paying grave robbers to supply fresh cadavers for his classes. Timothy (TV's Centennial) Dalton, who plays the mad doc, acts as though this were a role that the young Laurence Olivier overlooked. The difference is that Olivier would have played the part; Dalton merely poses for it. Eventually his backdoor bribes prompt one nasty pair to create new corpses for quick money. Can science answer for the consequences? Can blood money spark a sluggish economy? Can bad doctors really give good dinner parties? Like its hero, the movie never answers any of the ethical dilemmas it parades. Indeed, Francis proves to be the movie's most inept grave robber. He exhumes Thomas' screenplay to no apparent purpose. His movie pretends to address serious issues while it makes its own point with close-ups of severed feet bottled in formaldehyde. (R)
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