The Man Who Wouldn’t Die (1942)

Article 1905 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 6-2-2006
Posting Date: 10-30-2006
Directed by Herbert I. Leeds
Featuring Lloyd Nolan, Marjorie Weaver, Helene Reynolds

When a recently married woman returns to her father’s home to announce the news, she discovers the family is out of sorts. She thinks it’s because of an investigation being conducted on her father, but, unbeknownst to her, the family had just engaged in the mysterious midnight burial of a stranger. Then, when a mysterious figure takes a shot at her in her bedroom, and the family convinces her not to call the police, she hires a private investigator to pretend to be her husband and investigate the incident.

Sometimes just one crucial moment can make all the difference in how well a movie works. When the shooting in the bedroom occurs, the would-be murderer appears with his eyes glowing; I think it’s the same effect they tried to use with Bela Lugosi in DRACULA (where they didn’t center the lights correctly), but here it works beautifully, adding a touch of eerie horror to the proceedings. This, combined with a plot that implies that a character keeps rising from the dead, and a scene involving a room full of lab equipment that looks like it was out of FRANKENSTEIN , gives the movie quite a bit in the way of fantastic elements.

So far, this remains the only movie I’ve seen in the Michael Shayne series with Lloyd Nolan in the role. I hope more of them pop up on my list; this one was quite enjoyable. The fantastic elements, though incidental, are sharp and memorable, the mystery is very good, and the humor is quite engaging as well. Lloyd Nolan is great in this role, and I like the way his character is something of a cross between a Wallace Ford-style wisecracking reporter and some of the later Humphrey Bogart-style hard-boiled detectives, which is a pretty nice balancing act. Olin Howland is also memorable as a bumbling police inspector, and that’s Jeff Corey as the Coroner. I truly enjoyed this one, and I think there’s just enough here to keep horror fans entertained as well.

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