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William K. Howard
Like the other reviewer said, films this good shouldn't be so rarely seen and hard to find, that is, if you've even heard of it in the first place. This is definitely in the category of a precode as issues such as life, death, and life after death could not be explored so boldly after the code came into effect in 1934.
This rare Fox horror film is set at an international peace conference in which Captain. Paul Onslow (Warner Baxter), representative from a small fictitious country, is the sole dissenter in an agreement involving all the European countries. The decision must be unanimous or the agreement will not be in force. Onslow feels the agreement will be a disaster for his country and is unmoved by any argument or threat for that matter. Early that afternoon the conference adjourns and is to reconvene that night at 11PM for a final vote.
Onslow has an eventful day. He has an attempt made on his life, he falls in love - or I should say he realizes he has always been in love
with a long-time acquaintance and becomes engaged, an odd little man
with a mysterious machine moves into the home of his host, and finally
he is strangled to death by an unknown assailant a little after 6PM
in his room.
His body is discovered by a small group of close friends minutes after his death. As luck would have it the odd little man I mentioned earlier is a scientist whose mysterious machine can bring any life form back from the dead, but only for six hours. He demonstrates first on a rabbit, and then Onslow is brought back.
If you're expecting the shocked grunting character from 1936's "Walking Dead" you've expected wrong. Onslow is as articulate and dapper as he was before his death. However, like Karloff's character, he knows all that was going on while he was dead - including the fact that he only has six hours until he dies again - and seems to have the answers to the universe. However, he refuses to tell the few people who know what happened who killed him. Instead he jumps into his car and heads into the night, promising to confront his murderer personally, and also make that final vote at the conference. Remember now, nobody knows he is "dead" except the few who discovered his body, and they're keeping what happened to themselves. Along the way Onslow runs into three people he saw on the street that day and manages to comfort them with his personal knowledge of loved ones lost and a new empathy, although he was a pretty nice guy to begin with.
If the film has one real flaw it is that the revealing of the murderer is rather anticlimactic. There were so many possible suspects and the actual culprit is so nondescript that I had to go back to the beginning of the film to realize who the killer was.
Particularly moving is how Onslow handles the issue of his fiancée, who doesn't know what has happened to him. Also used to good effect is the rabbit that was brought back fifteen minutes before Onslow. It acts as a living hour glass, always letting Onslow know just how much time he has left. Highly recommended.
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