The Body Snatcher (1945)
The Blair Witch Project is being hailed as a new benchmark in terror, but its young creators have a long way to go before matching the literally terrific output of producer/writer Val Lewton, who made a whole string of horror classics at RKO in the 1940s. The Body Snatcher, which marked the last joint screen appearance of Boris Karloff and Bela Lugosi, is one of Newton's finest. The film is based on a Robert Louis Stevenson short story, itself inspired by the real-life antics of Burke and Hare, two lads in early-19th-century Edinburgh who robbed fresh graves and sold the cadavers to doctors for research. When boneyards couldn't fill the demand, the duo went to even more sinister lengths to meet their orders. It's wonderful to see Karloff (as Burke, the chief baddie) and Lugosi (as his less-ruthless partner) working as flesh-and-blood human villains, not costumed monsters. Most amazing of all, Lewton and director Robert Wise weave a masterpiece of moody, atmospheric horror in just 77 minutes.