The true story of William Burke and William Hare is certainly a fascinating one intrinsically. Two Irishmen in Edinburgh become resurrectionists, stealing bodies from graves to take advantage of the black market corpse trade that a nascent medical field struggling to find legally obtained cadavers facilitates in order to advance its science and educate its students…and because it loves cutting into people.
In this manner, Burke and Hare killed some 16 people in the city over the course of a year in the late 1820s. Eventually, they were caught and hanged, but that small detail only gave their lasting infamy a tidy conclusion.
Conversely, if you’re going to lure a successful director out of a 12-year hiatus from making movies, it has to be a pretty solid project. I mean, it took somebody like Jesus to coax Lazarus into answering the door.
In a line, the main problem of Burke and Hare is that it isn’t black enough and isn’t comedic enough. That's my impression, anyway. This isn't the type of article where I'm going to try to back those statements up.
But you know what? That’s okay. The cure for a bland movie (not to mention for both a bad one and a great one, as well) is to pair it with a drink. In this case, my wife surprised me with a little cocktail called the Jack o’ Lantern.
It’s only superficially a Fall drink, since it tastes the kind of fruity that politely requests a salt rim…but with the right glass, the right garnish, and the right amount of eye squint, the orange cocktail looks just like a pumpkin.
The ingredients, which, thankfully can’t be grinded down into a tasteless mash, are Hennessy VSOP Cognac and Gran Marnier (we had a gift certificate), along with ginger ale and orange juice. Here’s the full recipe. The pumpkin look comes from the natural color of the drink, the round-bottomed lowball glass that you’re supposed to use, and the garnish, which is a round slice of orange dropped flatwise onto the top of the drink and punctured in the middle by a twist of green lime rind, giving the effect of the top of a pumpkin.
Most awesomely, just two or three of these will make a movie like Burke and Hare the best thing you’ve watched in a long time.
By the way, if you want a better black comedy about a pair of grave robbers, definitely check out the 2008 flick I Sell the Dead starring Larry Fessenden, Dominic Monaghan, Angus Scrimm, and Ron Perlman. True, it has a supernatural slant to it that Burke and Hare can’t take advantage of, but it stays entertaining throughout.
And if you want a great movie ostensibly inspired by the story of Burke and Hare, you’ll want to watch the 1945 Robert Wise film The Body Snatcher, which stars Boris Karloff in the titular role and also features Bela Lugosi. Those guys need to drop in on your Halloween, anyway.
|Another cameo is Burke's actual skeleton,|
on display at the Museum of the Department of
Anatomy at Edinburgh University.