The Doctor and the Devils (1985)

R | 93 mins | Drama | 4 October 1985

Director:

Freddie Francis

Writer:

Ronald Harwood

Producer:

Jonathan Sanger

Cinematographers:

Gerry Turpin, Norman Warwick

Production Designer:

Robert Laing

Production Company:

Brooksfilms, Ltd.
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HISTORY

The film opens with the following statement: "A True Story"; and the end credits conclude with the statement: "Made at Lee International Studios; Shepperton, Middlesex, England."
       According to production notes in AMPAS library files, The Doctor and the Devils was one of several screenplays that poet Dylan Thomas wrote for producer Donald Taylor's company Strand Films sometime after World War II. While Taylor never produced the film, a 21 Apr 1985 LAT article said that the screenplay was published in book form in the year of Thomas's death, 1953.
       While a 19 Dec 1956 HR news brief noted that producer J. Arthur Rank had bought the rights to Thomas's screenplay with the intention of adapting the material into a play as well as a movie, a column in the 15 Jun 1965 Citizen News claimed that Rank never fulfilled his plans because he objected to the script's subject matter. However, filmmaker Nicholas Ray then acquired the rights and planned to direct the film in Yugoslavia in a partnership with Avala Film. Actor Maximilian Schell was cast in the lead role of "Dr. Thomas Rock."
       Numerous screenwriters were announced as working on adapting Thomas's original screenplay for Ray. While Citizen News reported that British novelist Lionel Davidson was hired, a 14 Jun 1965 DV item announced that Howard Burke and Borislav Mihajlovic-Mihiz had been hired, and a 20 Aug 1965 DV news brief reported that Gore Vidal was going to complete the "final script." None of these writers receive onscreen credit. The later DV article announced that principal photography was scheduled to begin on ...

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The film opens with the following statement: "A True Story"; and the end credits conclude with the statement: "Made at Lee International Studios; Shepperton, Middlesex, England."
       According to production notes in AMPAS library files, The Doctor and the Devils was one of several screenplays that poet Dylan Thomas wrote for producer Donald Taylor's company Strand Films sometime after World War II. While Taylor never produced the film, a 21 Apr 1985 LAT article said that the screenplay was published in book form in the year of Thomas's death, 1953.
       While a 19 Dec 1956 HR news brief noted that producer J. Arthur Rank had bought the rights to Thomas's screenplay with the intention of adapting the material into a play as well as a movie, a column in the 15 Jun 1965 Citizen News claimed that Rank never fulfilled his plans because he objected to the script's subject matter. However, filmmaker Nicholas Ray then acquired the rights and planned to direct the film in Yugoslavia in a partnership with Avala Film. Actor Maximilian Schell was cast in the lead role of "Dr. Thomas Rock."
       Numerous screenwriters were announced as working on adapting Thomas's original screenplay for Ray. While Citizen News reported that British novelist Lionel Davidson was hired, a 14 Jun 1965 DV item announced that Howard Burke and Borislav Mihajlovic-Mihiz had been hired, and a 20 Aug 1965 DV news brief reported that Gore Vidal was going to complete the "final script." None of these writers receive onscreen credit. The later DV article announced that principal photography was scheduled to begin on 1 Sep 1965 with a budget of $1.7 million. However, the 28 Sep 1965 DV reported that the production start was delayed until that week. Weather conditions further delayed production until 11 Oct 1965, thus forcing Maximilian Schell to drop out of the film. The 15 Dec 1965 Var contended that Schell quit the picture when Avala Film failed to pay his contracted salary, which was rumored to be $150,000. Laurence Harvey was reported as Schell's replacement.
       Ray's version of the film was shut down when distributor Seven Arts backed out of its "pre-production buy of worldwide distribution rights," according to the 4 Nov 1965 DV. That lack of funding and the casting reshuffling prevented Ray and Avala Film from interesting further investors in the picture.
       Twenty years later, a 16 Feb 1985 Screen International article noted that the rights of the screenplay were passed to Dr. Barrington Cooper who, in the mid-1970s, discussed making the film with Freddie Francis as director. After approximately ten years, Cooper showed the screenplay to Brooksfilm producer Jonathan Sanger, who received approval to make the picture from executive producer Mel Brooks.
       Principal photography began 14 Jan 1985 at Shepperton Studios and was expected to last about nine weeks with a budget of $7 million. The 21 Apr 1985 LAT article reported that two indoor soundstages were utilized to create the outdoor 1830s town square where the bulk of the film's action takes place. The last day of filming was 22 Mar 1985, according to a Screen International news item dated 23 Mar 1985.
       A 6 Feb 1985 Var article reported that, although the film was to be in color, Francis had hoped to achieve a "b&w effect" by using a flat color palate. Screen International reported that this style was achieved using the LightFlex system created by the film's director of photography, Gerry Turpin, which helped to "contain" color.

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GEOGRAPHIC LOCATIONS
SOURCE CITATIONS
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
Citizen News
15 Jun 1965.
---
Daily Variety
14 Jun 1965.
---
Daily Variety
20 Aug 1965.
---
Daily Variety
28 Sep 1965.
---
Daily Variety
4 Nov 1965.
---
Hollywood Reporter
19 Dec 1956.
---
Hollywood Reporter
2 Oct 1985
p. 3, 7.
Los Angeles Times
21 Apr 1985
Section W, p. 25, 27.
Los Angeles Times
4 Oct 1985
p. 8.
New York Times
4 Oct 1985
p. 8.
Screen International
16 Feb 1985.
---
Screen International
23 Mar 1985.
---
Variety
15 Dec 1965.
---
Variety
6 Feb 1985
p. 23.
Variety
9 Oct 1985
p. 23, 28.
CAST
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
PRODUCTION COMPANY
PRODUCTION TEXTS
Brooksfilms Presents
A Jonathan Sanger Production
DISTRIBUTION COMPANY
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTORS
Asst dir
2d asst dir
3d asst dir
PRODUCERS
Assoc prod
Exec prod
Assoc prod for Brooksfilms
Assoc prod for Brooksfilms
Assoc prod for Brooksfilms
[Prod] in assoc with
[Prod] in assoc with
WRITERS
Based on an orig scr
PHOTOGRAPHY
Dir of photog
Dir of photog
Cam op
Chief elec
Stills photog
Cam focus
Cam loader
Cam grip
Best boy
Cam and lenses supplied by
Lighting supplied by
Processing by
ART DIRECTORS
Prod des
Asst art dir
FILM EDITORS
1st asst ed
2d asst ed
SET DECORATORS
Set dec
Prop master
Const co-ord
Standby carpenter
Standby painter
Standby plasterer
Standby rigger
Standby stagehand
COSTUMES
Ward supv
Ward master
MUSIC
Cond, The National Philharmonic Orchestra
Orch, The National Philharmonic Orchestra
SOUND
Sd mixer
Sd ed
Dubbing mixer
Boom op
Dial ed
Asst sd ed
VISUAL EFFECTS
Spec eff
Asst spec eff
MAKEUP
Make-up des
Hair des
Asst make-up
Asst hair
PRODUCTION MISC
Casting
Scr supv
Prod co-ord
Unit/Loc mgr
Accounts
Unit pub
Accounts asst
Unit nurse
Casting asst
Transportation
Asst to prod
Asst to dir
Prod's representative
SOURCES
MUSIC
"Tainted Hands," written and performed by In Tua Nua
Incidental music written and performed by In Tua Nua.
SONGS
"Whisper and I Shall Hear," sung by Twiggy, music by M. Piccolomini, words by C. Hubi Newcombe.
PERFORMED BY
DETAILS
Release Date:
4 October 1985
Premiere Information:
Los Angeles and New York openings: 4 Oct 1985
Production Date:
14 Jan--22 Mar 1985 in Shepperton, England
Copyright Info
Claimant
Date
Copyright Number
Brooksfilms, Ltd., Nevada
2 January 1986
PA276822
Physical Properties:
Sound
Dolby Stereo in selected theatres
Color
Duration(in mins):
93
MPAA Rating:
R
Countries:
United Kingdom, United States
Language:
English
SYNOPSIS

Dr. Thomas Rock lectures a group of medical students at the Academy of Anatomy while using a rotting corpse as a subject. His assistant, Dr. Murray, observes the class. Meanwhile, at Black Boar Inn, a barmaid informs patrons Robert Fallon and Timothy Broom that three well-dressed men drinking together make money by selling dead bodies to Dr. Rock. Fallon and Broom follow the dapper men to the graveyard and watch as they exhume a corpse. After creating a distraction, Fallon and Broom steal the dead body without the three grave robbers seeing them. Fallon and Broom bring the corpse to the Academy, where Dr. Murray only pays half of what is owed due to the body's state of extreme decomposition. Regardless, Fallon and Broom are so happy to have money that they buy a round of drinks at the Inn for the customers, including prostitute Jennie Bailey. The next morning, Billy Bedlam, a mentally challenged young man, is injured in a carriage accident, leaving his legs crushed. Two medical students bring Billy to the Academy, where Dr. Rock ties off an exposed artery in Billy's mangled leg. After the procedure, Dr. Rock complains to his colleague Dr. Harry Thornton about the current law that limits surgeons to practice only on the corpses of hardened criminals. These bodies are usually so decayed by the time they reach the Academy that they are useless for proper study. Later, Dr. Murray comforts Billy's sister Alice and Jennie, the prostitute, by telling them that Dr. Rock has successfully saved Billy. Noticing that Jennie accidentally left her shawl behind at the Academy, Dr. Murray returns it to her at the brothel and pays to ...

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Dr. Thomas Rock lectures a group of medical students at the Academy of Anatomy while using a rotting corpse as a subject. His assistant, Dr. Murray, observes the class. Meanwhile, at Black Boar Inn, a barmaid informs patrons Robert Fallon and Timothy Broom that three well-dressed men drinking together make money by selling dead bodies to Dr. Rock. Fallon and Broom follow the dapper men to the graveyard and watch as they exhume a corpse. After creating a distraction, Fallon and Broom steal the dead body without the three grave robbers seeing them. Fallon and Broom bring the corpse to the Academy, where Dr. Murray only pays half of what is owed due to the body's state of extreme decomposition. Regardless, Fallon and Broom are so happy to have money that they buy a round of drinks at the Inn for the customers, including prostitute Jennie Bailey. The next morning, Billy Bedlam, a mentally challenged young man, is injured in a carriage accident, leaving his legs crushed. Two medical students bring Billy to the Academy, where Dr. Rock ties off an exposed artery in Billy's mangled leg. After the procedure, Dr. Rock complains to his colleague Dr. Harry Thornton about the current law that limits surgeons to practice only on the corpses of hardened criminals. These bodies are usually so decayed by the time they reach the Academy that they are useless for proper study. Later, Dr. Murray comforts Billy's sister Alice and Jennie, the prostitute, by telling them that Dr. Rock has successfully saved Billy. Noticing that Jennie accidentally left her shawl behind at the Academy, Dr. Murray returns it to her at the brothel and pays to have a conversation with her. Later, Fallon and Broom, now penniless, smother a sick man to death, and then bring the corpse to Dr. Rock, who is so pleased at the freshness of the body that he immediately starts cutting into its chest. While teaching a class, Dr. Rock shows his students a pair of kidneys that he says have come from a sheep. However, when Prof. Macklin sees the organs, he knows they are from a human, so he vows to expose Dr. Rock for acquiring fresh corpses. While on a date at the Inn, Dr. Murray complains to Jennie that he is uncomfortable sitting among the city's degenerates. However, when Jennie suggests retiring to the brothel for privacy, Dr. Murray refuses. At a faculty meeting, Dr. Rock admits that the kidneys were illegally obtained from a human corpse and that he will continue to break the law in the name of science. Wandering the city streets, Dr. Rock and Dr. Thornton are approached by Alice, who shows her appreciation to Dr. Rock for saving Billy's life by giving him her ring. At the Inn, Dr. Murray watches Fallon and Broom get an old man intoxicated, then drag him outside. Upon returning to the lab, Dr. Murray sees that there is a fresh corpse from Fallon and Broom – the corpse of the old drunk. When Dr. Murray suggests that Fallon and Broom are murderers, Dr. Rock is unconcerned. Distraught, Dr. Murray tries to see Jennie again at the brothel, but she shoos him away. Meanwhile, Fallon and Broom lure an old woman, Mrs. Flynn, to their home. There, they are surprised to see that their wives have taken in a family of boarders: Mr. and Mrs. Webb and their sick daughter, Nora. When Mr. and Mrs. Webb tend to Nora in another room, Fallon and Broom smother Mrs. Flynn with a pillow. However, the old lady does not die quickly, so Fallon strangles her with his bare hands, rendering her corpse worthless since the print marks on her neck make it obvious that she has been murdered. Broom then cuts off the old lady's finger to steal what he thinks is a valuable ring. At the Inn, the brothel's madame tells Broom that the ring's diamonds and gold are counterfeit, but she buys it anyway for a cheap price. Back at the boarding house, Mrs. Webb sees Mrs. Flynn's finger burning in the fire, so she brings in a policeman to investigate. Fallon and Broom attempt to lure Jennie and Alice back to their house, but are scared off when they see the officer. Instead, they go to a horse stable where Broom insists he will not murder anyone else. However, Fallon insists that they kill at least one more victim, either Jenny or Alice. Broom leaves the stable in a huff. Fallon then arrives at Dr. Rock's lab with a female corpse, whom he insists died in the middle of their lovemaking. Upon removing Jennie's shawl from the dead woman's face, Dr. Rock recognizes the female corpse as Alice. After Fallon has left, Dr. Murray recognizes Jennie's shawl, so he runs to find her before Fallon can kill her, too. At the stable, Jennie attempts to leave, but Fallon tries to smother her with a blanket. At the Inn, Dr. Murray strangles Broom, forcing him to give up Jennie's location. As Fallon attacks Jennie, Dr. Murray bursts in. The two men fight and Murray breaks Fallon's arm. Broom is taken to prison, where he pledges to confess that Dr. Rock paid Fallon to murder. At the Academy, Dr. Rock attempts to teach his anatomy class while an angry mob outside shouts for revenge. The Academy faculty agrees not to press charges against Dr. Rock, nor will they force him to participate in Fallon and Broom's trials. As Fallon waits to be sent to the gallows, he worries that Dr. Rock will cut up his body after the execution. Fallon is then hung to death while Broom expresses no regret for betraying his friend.

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Legend
Viewed by AFI
Partially Viewed
Offscreen Credit
Name Occurs Before Title
AFI Life Achievement Award

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