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Friday, July 11, 2008

THE MAN THEY COULD NOT HANG (1939)

By the late ‘30s, Boris Karloff had slipped to Grade B programmers @ Columbia. In this one, after a lumpy first act, we touch a level of perversity that might have pleased Lon Chaney & Todd Browning, even under the helm of the justly named Nick Grinde. Karloff is testing a sort of suspended-animation procedure on a willing subject when the police stop him from reviving the man. Arrested for murder and sentenced to death, his own experiment revives him after execution. Now, he lives only to avenge those who done ‘im wrong, killing them off one by one. Alas, the first six victims (members of the jury) are offed off-stage and the rest are herded together in quasi Agatha Christie/TEN LITTLE INDIANS style that leaves too many miserable contract players on their feet at the finale. But the script, by former D. W. Griffith lenser Karl Brown, gives off a pleasingly creepy chill.

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