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Monday, March 20, 2017

The Man They Could Not Hang (1939)

Starring Boris Karloff, Lorna Gray, Robert Wilcox, Roger Pryor, Don Beddoe
Directed by Nick Grinde
(actor & director credits courtesy

A scientist puts a young man to death to prove that he can resuscitate him, but is arrested before he can, and when he's convicted of murder, he swears his condemners will pay with their lives.

This was the first in a series of "mad doctor" films Karloff made for Columbia Pictures, which were lower budgeted affairs not comparable to his early classic horror movies for Universal, but this entry's a worthwhile film tailored around a fine performance by the actor.  As Dr. Henryk Savaard, he's gifted with several passionate speeches stressing the benefits of advancing science to save lives, and he's compelling delivering them, well showcased in crisp photography from Benjamin Kline.  Of course, we know this will all be for naught, leading to a mad obsession to enact his vengeance, which is well-staged in a climactic meeting in his home that he's rigged with death traps.  The film's brief running time doesn't allow for sustained suspense while Savaard targets his victims, but Grinde delivers an efficient picture with plenty of dialogue for the distinguished actor, who sounds charming even while delivering his threats.

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