The Man Who Could Cheat Death (1959)

THE MAN WHO COULD CHEAT DEATH (1959)
Article 2784 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 12-21-2008
Posting Date: 3-28-2009
Directed by Terence Fisher
Featuring Anton Diffring, Hazel Court, Christopher Lee
Country: UK

A doctor who also is a sculptor has a secret; he’s more than a hundred years old thanks to operations on his glands. Unfortunately, he has to kill others to get the glands. However, he’s due for another operation, and the surgeon who performed has suffered from a stroke and can no longer operate. He must find another doctor to operate or face certain death…

It seems an odd choice on Hammer’s part to do a remake of THE MAN ON HALF MOON STREET, but you can rest assured of one thing; they were quite willing to take this talky story and give it the the horror elements they wanted for their movies. Therefore, we get a new twist involving a fluid that can extend his life for four weeks but also turns him into a homicidal maniac, and the subplot about the missing women and the art pieces. I suppose it passes muster all right, but when I found out that Peter Cushing was originally slated for the title role, I couldn’t help but feel disappointed at Anton Diffring’s performance; his Teutonic intensity gets tiresome, and causes him to emphasize phrases and situations that would be best underplayed, and I would just love to see how Cushing would have handled the cliched scene in which the doctor/sculptor has a final confrontation with his former surgeon (it’s one of those doctor-talks-to-another-character-that-serves-as-his-conscience scenes). Hazel Court is lovely as always, and Christopher Lee somehow makes the best job he can with a rather thankless role. Hammer did better before, and they would do better again.

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