The Man With Nine Lives

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(5/10) In a nutshell: One of five films that Columbia made with Boris Karloff, more or less from one and the same script, this 1940 cryogenics film is competently made and quite enjoyable. At least you’ll get a few chuckles out of the utterly silly science, like doctors reviving patients from cryogenic stasis with pots of hot coffee.

The Man With Nine Lives. 1940, USA. Directed by Nick Grinde. Written by Karl Brown & Harold Shumate. Starring: Boris Karloff, Roger Pryor, Jo Ann Sayers. Produced by Irving Briskin & Wallace MacDonald for Columbia. IMDb score: 6.4

Boris Karloff and the stupid authorities arguing over a frozen man in a promo still.

Boris Karloff and the stupid authorities arguing over a frozen man in a promo still.

1940 saw a brief burst of science fiction/mad doctor films, before the genre started to wane in the forties. One reason was Boris Karloff, who appeared in four(!) such films that year: The Ape, Before I Hang, Black Friday and The Man With Nine Lives. The Man With Nine Lives was one of five mad scientist films that Karloff did for Columbia under a short period of time, and one of three directed by Nick Grinde. Continue reading

The Man They Could Not Hang

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(5/10) In a nutshell: Boris Karloff shines as the lone star in his first of five mad scientist films for Columbia Pictures B-movie unit in 1939. Made on a shoestring budget this medical sci-fi turned old dark house revenge thriller is entertaining but unimaginative.

The Man They Could Not Hang. 1939, USA. Directed by Nick Grinde. Written by Karl Brown, George Wallace Sayre, Leslie T. White, Starring: Boris Karloff, Lorna Gray, Robert Wilcox, Roger Pryor, Don Debboe, Ann Doran, Joe De Stefani, Charkes Trowbridge. Produced by Wallace MacDonald for Universal. IMDb score: 6.8

Karloff and his artificial heart in The Man They Could Not Hang.

Karloff and his artificial heart in The Man They Could Not Hang.

The Man They Could Not Hang (1939) was the first of five sci-fi horror/mystery films Boris Karloff did for Columbia Pictures, and maybe the best – although that isn’t saying too much. By now Karloff was already deeply mired in the mad scientist bog, and the films he did after signing a five-film contract with Columbia were formulaic. His stubborn refusal to stay dead and buried on screen were by now the butt of jokes. As the New York Times’ critic Frank S. Nugent wrote in 1939:

If you don’t know Mr. Karloff by this time, we will explain: He is the man whose funerals are never final. You lay a wreath on Boris in one corner and he is certain to appear in another, full of obscure, graveyard resentment, sworn to get you, if it’s the last thing he does.

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If he didn’t exist, it would be necessary to invent him, if only to strengthen our faith in the essential indestructibility of the human breed. Continue reading