Tony's Reviews > The Doctor and the Devils

The Doctor and the Devils by Dylan Thomas
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May 03, 2012

it was amazing
bookshelves: film

THE DOCTOR AND THE DEVILS. (1953). Dylan Thomas. *****.
This was a screenplay written by Thomas at the request of Donald Taylor, a producer/director who was looking for a script that would allow him to shoot a film that had a story which proposed “the ends justifying the means.” In the edition that I just read, a Time Reading Program edition, Mr. Taylor added a postscript about this screenplay that explains his reasoning. This screenplay was the first ever screenplay to be published before a film was made from it. At the time of the publication of this edition, no film had yet been made. Fortunately – although I haven’t seen it yet – a film was finally made in 1985, and starred Timothy Dalton as Dr. Rock, Jonathan Pryer as Fallon, Twiggie as Jennie, and Stephen Rea as Broom. I haven’t checked Netflix yet, but hope they have a copy. In any event, the screenplay is the story of Burke & Hare, well-known murders in Edinbrough who started out as “Resurection Men,” or grave robbers, supplying relatively fresh corpses to medical schools to be used for dissection/learning purposes. Their largest client was a Dr. Robert Knox. In his screenplay, Thomas had to change the names, so that Knox = Dr. Rock, Burke = Fallon, and Hare = Broom. When they started their business, providing cadavers, business was brisk, and they found that there were not enough people dying of natural causes to provide the supply needed, so... they began killing people off – usually old people who were customers of their flop house in the city. Things got out of hand, though, and they modified their operations to include young people too. They were ultimately caught, and the purpose of the story was to show that Dr. Knox, although he was probably aware of where all the corpses were coming from, was not indicted for any of the crimes. The main reason he got off scott free was that he represented a priveleged class that had to protect itself from such intrusions. This is a marvelous screenplay in which even the setting descriptions take on a poetic nature. I’m hoping that the movie lives up to the screenplay. Highly recommended.
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