Night #11: The Man Who Could Cheat Death (1959)

cheatdeath

What is death that it should be feared so much?

Directed By: Terence Fisher

So I was probably a bit misled with this one. However you see a movie made by Hammer studios, directed by Terence Fisher (DraculaThe MummyThe Devil Rides Out) and starring Christopher Lee and you expect some shenanigans.

Set in the most London sounding Paris ever (There’s seriously not one French accent in the whole thing), this is more of a parlour drama with occasional flourishes of murder than anything else. It makes sense since it was based on a stage play, but it also gives the feeling that more is going to happen than what actually does.

Dr Georges Bonner (Played by German character actor Anton Diffring) is a gifted sculpter and we first meet him hosting a party where he’s showing off his latest creation: a bust of his (current) girlfriend. It’s a bit of a shit party though since he lets everyone out early. When they’re all gone he reaches into his safe and is about to drink something when he’s interrupted by said girlfriend who wants to discuss their “future”. Well, brilliant surgeons don’t have time for this talk so he tries to usher her out. When she doesn’t leave he starts to get ill and it takes a turn into Jekyll and Hyde territory.

All of this is in roughly the first fifteen minutes. The rest of the movie is about Bonner trying to get a mysterious operation that will cure him of his ailment. His old friend, a world renowned doctor (And really, I feel like that’s such a movie profession. Were doctors ever that famous?) appears but is unable to help since he’s had a stroke. Bonner eventually convinces the very French sounding Dr Pierre Gerrard (Played by the very un-French Christopher Lee) to perform it, while also making moves on the man’s girlfriend, who happens to be his old flame.

I say he’s making moves on her but it’s actually all her. She is very quick to declare her love for a man that abandoned her years previously. I’m not one for telling other people how to live their lives, but have some self-respect lady.

Anyway, most of the movie is a ticking clock to see if he’ll get this operation or not and what happens if he doesn’t. Largely though it’s people in rooms talking about living for a long time. It should be no surprise that Bonner has found a way to extend his lifespan, and intends to use this knowledge to seemingly live forever. And here I am, worrying if I’ll ever make it it long enough to see John Wick 2 when its out.

So while I didn’t enjoy this one all that much, though it was nice to see Christopher Lee as a hero for once, it still has that great early use of colour. It’s no surprise since Terence Fisher directed most of these pictures – the good ones anyway – and handles the atmosphere well here. Though sometimes it feels as the foggy Parisian streets were just to make up for the fact they were probably shooting in Dorset or something.

All in all this one is certainly horror-themed, but not something that’s going to send a tingle up your spine.

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