The Body Snatcher (1945) is based the short story The Body Snatcher (1884) by Robert Louis Stevenson which was based loosely on the Burke and Hare murders also known as the West Port murders. Burke and Hare were accused of committing a string of murders in Edinburgh, Scotland over a period of approximately ten months in 1828. William Burke and William Hare reportedly sold 16 corpses to a Doctor Robert Knox for his anatomy lectures. When faced with a shortage of suitable corpses, Burke and Hare began murdering people and selling the bodies to the unsuspecting Dr. Knox.
The film was directed by Robert Wise also known for directing such films as The Curse of the Cat People (1944), The Day the Earth Stood Still (1951) and Star Trek: The Motion Picture (1979). The film's producer Val Lewton co-wrote the screen play under the name of "Carlos Keith" with Phillip MacDonald.
The film starred Boris Karloff as John Gray ( the Body snatcher), Bela Lugosi as Joseph, and Henry Daniell as Dr. McFarland.
When Val Lewton learned that RKO had teamed him up with Boris Karloff for a three picture deal, Lewton was not happy. However after a meeting with Karloff and Robert Wise, Lewton changed his mind when he learned that Karloff was seeking to distance himself from the Universal style of horror for chance to return to more literate acting. RKO snatched up another Universal horror star, Bela Lugosi and Lewton was instructed to create a role for Lugosi. Both Karloff and Lugosi delivered what is considered to be one of their best performances of their careers. Sadly, this film would be the last to feature both Boris Karloff and Bela Lugosi.