Monday, August 24, 2009

John Landis - Keeping His Head in the Game

Sorry to be away for a while – we’ve been keeping busy over at Cinefantastique and the all-important (yet still dreaded) day job. But we just came across a bit of news that was just too delicious not to pass on. According to Dread Central, John Landis is about to start work on his first narrative feature (discounting his recent, and excellent documentaries and television work) in 10 years. Can the news get better? The subject matter is going to be a pair of gentlemen by the name of William Burke and William Hare, who kindly supplied the Edinburgh Medial College’s need for fresh bodies for dissection in the early 19th Century; first by simply stealing bodies from the grave, and later by cutting out the middle man and murdering the subjects on their own. There have already been several films dealing with the pair, including the excellent The Flesh and the Fiends from 1960, featuring Donald Pleasence as Hare and Peter Cushing as the tragic Dr. Knox – a brilliant surgeon whose dealings with the pair cost him his reputation, the forgettable 1972 Burke &Hare, and the odd 1985 entry, The Doctor and the Devils, a Hammer-inspired work from Mel Brooks’ production company that used an unproduced script by Dylan Thomas as a launching pad for a fictionalized take on the case and featuring a smashing cast including Jonathan Pryce and Stephen Rea as “Fallon and Broom” (the renamed Burke and Hare) and Timothy Dalton as “Dr. Rock”.


Even Landis’ most strident supporters (a group that we proudly belong to) would acknowledge that the second half of his directorial career has generated an awful lot of garbage (of which The Stupids isn’t even the worst) but the man’s footpath is littered with more diamonds than can be easily be counted. Approached as coal-black comedy, Landis could do wonders with the material – particularly if Simon Pegg remains attached.