When Dr. Savaard's experiment in cryonics is interrupted by the short-sighted authorities, his volunteer dies, and he is condemned to death. He vows vengeance if he can survive his own hanging.


Nick Grinde (as Nick Grindé)


Karl Brown (screenplay), George Wallace Sayre (story) (as George W. Sayre) | 1 more credit »





Complete credited cast:
Boris Karloff ... Dr. Henryk Savaard
Lorna Gray ... Janet Savaard
Robert Wilcox ... 'Scoop' Foley
Roger Pryor ... District Attorney Drake
Don Beddoe ... Police Lt. Shane
Ann Doran ... Betty Crawford
Joe De Stefani Joe De Stefani ... Dr. Stoddard (as Joseph De Stefani)
Charles Trowbridge ... Judge Bowman
Byron Foulger ... Lang
Dick Curtis ... Jury Foreman Clifford Kearney
James Craig ... Juror Watkins
John Tyrrell ... Juror Sutton


Mad scientist Dr. Henryk Savaard is obsessed with bringing the dead back to life. The police are alerted to Savaard's activities, however, and Savaard is arrested, convicted, and sentenced to hang. He vows revenge on the judge, jury, and district attorney. After the hanging, his assistant claims the corpse and uses Savaard's technique to bring the doctor back to life. Now the mad scientist can seek sweet revenge on his perceived "enemies". Written by Kelly/RMS

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


Boris Karloff dares you to see this holocaust of horror! See more »


Crime | Horror | Sci-Fi


Unrated | See all certifications »

Did You Know?


Shooting lasted from June 27-July 12, 1939, released Aug. 17. See more »


When the judge dies, the remaining guests discover the electrified grill because the detective's gun, in a holster on his belt, hits the grill. Later, when the detective pulls his gun, he pulls it from his jacket. See more »


Dr. Henryk Savaard: Think of it! The Edison or Pasteur of tomorrow need not die merely because his heart is worn out. We'll give him a new heart taken perhaps from the body of a young man who's been killed in a automobile accident. And our great genius is awakened to another sixty years of useful life! You ask me if that's a benefit to mankind? I answer it's the gift of eternal life! But whether man's wise enough or old enouh to receive such a gift, I don't know. I don't know!
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Referenced in Cinemassacre's Monster Madness: Saw (2015) See more »

User Reviews

THE MAN THEY COULD NOT HANG (Nick Grinde', 1939) **1/2
29 October 2006 | by Bunuel1976See all my reviews

This is the first of Karloff's cycle of "Mad Doctor" B-films for Columbia and, given that somehow I was under the impression that this was considered the least of them, I was surprised to find it great fun throughout. Essentially, all the films had similar plots (and it's interesting to see how the star's looks changed from one title to the next) - with Karloff on the verge of some great discovery or other but who's always thwarted at the proverbial 11th hour by thick-headed police and other figures of authority!; in fact, they're so teeth-grindingly stupid here that Karloff's conversion from dedicated scientist to cold-blooded killer was actually quite convincing!!

The star is in really fine form in this film - especially effective when delivering his threatening final statement before the court passes sentence on him and then, following his resurrection (complete with broken neck a' la Bela Lugosi's Ygor!), when exacting his elaborate and sinister revenge plan. In fact, the second half - intriguingly modeled on Agatha Christie's "Ten Little Indians/And Then There Were None" - is even more entertaining than the first. seeing how it finds all who remain of Karloff's intended victims being locked up in one room of his house (with all exits having been systematically blocked and wired with electricity!) and allowing 15 minutes between one execution and the next. Of course, his plans go sadly awry in the end as he hadn't counted on the presence of his daughter (alerted to Karloff's reappearance by her snooping reporter boyfriend) and, when she eventually 'sacrifices' her life to save that of Karloff's unwilling guests, he sees the error of his ways and willingly accepts death anew from a bullet wound. Unfortunately, there's a hokey, tacked-on happy ending of sorts - with Karloff's daughter getting resurrected in the nick of time, through the use of his own invention, before he himself expires.

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Release Date:

17 August 1939 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

The Man They Could Not Hang See more »

Company Credits

Production Co:

Columbia Pictures See more »
Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:

Mono (Western Electric Mirrophonic Recording)

Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
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