The Man with Nine Lives (1940)
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The laboratory scenes in the proximity of a large underground glacier are unique. The chemistry lab including the "heavily concentrated poisons" is hair-raising indeed. With the right combination of lighting and shadow, as Karloff prepares the chemical experiments, the scenes within the underground laboratory are extremely eerie.
The maddest doctor of them all was clearly Boris Karloff.
Worth watching many times.
The plot is intriguing (though it necessitates that Karloff make a rather belated entrance) and the star is in top form in a role which, while confining him to one set, basically allows him to run the whole gamut of emotions (except maybe love, since he's made-up to look as an elderly man) from commitment to his cause to disappointment at other people's intolerance (especially a fellow doctor, who should know better!), from bitterness at being held from completing his experiments (first, by having his laboratory 'invaded' by authority figures out to arrest him and, then, by having his secret formula a cure for cancer! destroyed by a young man for purely selfish reasons: the boy's inheritance having slipped through his fingers because he has unaccountably gone 'missing' for 10 years, he's determined that Karloff won't have his day of glory either!!).
That said, the film's major fault apart from a lackluster supporting cast still lies within the plot itself, which I find to be chronically silly: when the hero and heroine want to go to Karloff's old place across the water, they're told off by a frightened boatman from the mainland (this ominous device works well in a Gothic setting but it's just stupid in a modern one though, to be fair to this film, it's also utilized in THE MAN WHO CHANGED HIS MIND ); the figures of authority are so one-dimensional (they're not prepared to listen to Karloff even after having themselves being miraculously revived talk of gratitude!) as to be really grating and I can't tell you how amused I was when, having it dawned on Karloff that none of them will be missed after all this time, he was free to use them as guinea pigs in his attempt to discover again, through trial and error(!), just what the ingredients of his formula were!! This latter element, however, is perhaps the film's most blatant 'boo-boo': when Karloff is revived, he tells our heroes what happened 10 years earlier and says that he remembered it all like it was yesterday in fact, in a flashback, we see him take note of the very ingredients which comprise the secret formula, down to the exact dose he needs from each of them for it to work but then, conveniently for plot purposes, he forgets when the others are revived as well and the paper ends up being thrown into the fire so, he has to start all over again!! Likewise, during the finale, after having seen a number of times already that it takes several hours for someone to be revived from freezing, the heroine regains consciousness in a matter of seconds just enough to allow the dying Karloff (having been shot by a brand new 'posse' arriving on the scene) to taste the success of his lifelong labor!!
With respect to the DVD transfer, since this was my first viewing of the film, I couldn't compare it to previous editions but, for the most part, I was pleased with the work Columbia has done on this low-budget item (except for the brief drop in quality during the final reel that was mentioned in reviews when the disc first came out). However, I have to report a glitch: at around the 8:15 mark (when the head doctor sends off Dr. Mason on forced vacation leave), the picture froze for an instant and then continued; after I finished watching the film, I took out the disc and noticed a tiny speck of dust on its reading surface which I'm sure wasn't there when I inserted it! Anyway, after I wiped it off, I tried it out again and this time the disc not only froze permanently at the same point but a hideous noise emanated from the DVD player my heart almost stopped!! Still, I persisted and made yet another attempt and, now, the picture froze momentarily but resumed soon after...as it had done the first time around! That ghastly sound-thing only happened to me once before with Image's double-feature disc of Mario Bava's LISA AND THE DEVIL (1972)/THE HOUSE OF EXORCISM (1975)...albeit only upon my second viewing of that DVD! (This never used to happen with VHS, that's for sure! God, I hate technology )
Mason and his fiancée Nurse Judith Blair (Jo Anne Sayers of "Young Dr. Kildare") use the leave of absence to track down the scientist, Dr. Leon Kravaal (Boris Karloff) whose research inspired Mason. Kravaal has been missing since 1930 and Mason resolves to find him. Kravaal lived on an island and a man who rents out boats warns them that several gentlemen visited Kravaal, but they never returned. Mason and Judith land on the island and find a destitute, empty house. The house, however, conceals many hiding places and they discover a dilapidated laboratory and Judith shrieks when they stumble upon a skeleton. Later, our heroes uncover a locked down and open it to find it filled with ice and the body of Dr. Kravaal. They revive him and Mason explains his interest in cryogenics.
Dr. Kravaal explains how he came to be frozen. The circumstances involved a dying wealthy man who sought treatment for his ailment, but the man's hysterical son believes that Kravaal is taking advantage of a terminal case to make money and the authorities force Kravaal to take him to his island so that they can see what he has done. A medical authority who accompanies them has nothing but contempt for Kravaal's treatment of freezing a man to cure him. Kravaal gets the drop on them and smashes a chemical potion that knocks them out. Their interference brings about the death of the dying rich man and Kravaal stashes them in one of his frozen chambers. Unfortunately, the same chemicals that he resorted to so that he could take them hostage works on him and he collapses and is frozen until Mason and Judith thaw him out. They thaw out the incredulous authorities and the adventure really begins! This is a really thoughtful science fiction movie.
Well I'm surprised it took me so long to run across this little Karloff gem. It turned up this morning of all places on Antenna TV, generally better known for it's airing of old TV programs from the Sixties. Actually it was in the Sixties when my dad gave me the run down on actors like Karloff, Chaney and Lugosi and I've been a fan ever since. The film includes elements of horror and sci-fi with a little bit of murder mystery to boot, featuring Karloff once again as a mad, but seemingly normal scientist working for the betterment of humanity. It's only when his work is threatened that he resorts to killing an antagonist. Actually, the scene where he shoots Bob Adams (Stanley Brown), in the back no less for destroying his formula, seemed to me to be a bit over the top. Granted, I'd be PO'd too, but gee, I don't think I'd kill anybody over it.
Probably the best part of this flick was the set design of Dr. Leon Kravaal's (Karloff) impressive lab, one of the better ones this side of Frankenstein. And not just one, he had multiple labs in different parts of his house. Which made me wonder, how long would it have taken the good doctor to set up his working lab through a secret tunnel and another hundred feet under ground? That's some kind of dedication.
There were other things I had to think about as well as the story got under way. Why would Dr. Mason (Roger Pryor) and his nurse/fiancée Judy Blair (Jo Ann Sayers) embark on their mission to find Dr. Kravaal's missing research wearing business suits. That seemed just a little too formal for me, particularly when they started crawling around through Kravaal's tunnels and labs. Not that this was unusual for films of the era, but I don't understand what would motivate anyone to be attired that way.
But you know what really blew me away? When the doc and his assistant rented the boat from old Pete Daggett (Ernie Adams), do you know what the fee was - twenty five cents per hour plus a dollar deposit!!! Holy smokes, and I thought the whole concept of freezing human bodies was scary!
Very interesting and entertaining Karloff mad scientist movie. The subject of cryogenics (never called that here, just frozen therapy) is ahead of its time. The rest of the cast is fine but obviously it's Karloff's show the whole way. Intriguing premise with fun execution. A solid "B" movie that's highly enjoyable.
Anytime a new Boris Karloff movie that I haven't seen is set to release on DVD, there's reason for me to rejoice. It's rare that the man and his work have ever let me down. To say that I was under whelmed by The Man with Nine Lives would be an understatement. There's just not much here to get excited about. I wasn't expecting the second coming of Karloff's Frankenstein monster, but I had hoped for a lively, engrossing story. To put it kindly, much of the the movie is dull. A portion of the enjoyment I was able to derive from the movie came from my almost fanboy like appreciation of Karloff and his work. The man simply amazes me every time I see him on screen. Which makes it amazing to me that my favorite part of the movie was the exploration of the Kraval's house that actually takes place before Karloff makes his appearance.
It wouldn't be fair to discuss The Man with Nine Lives without mentioning the set design. It's the real highlight of the movie. I've already mentioned the house. In old, dark house fashion, it's riddled with secret passages and mysterious locked doors. But the best part of the set design had to be the freezing rooms that were supposedly carved out of a glacier. To my untrained eye, I found them very believable and authentic looking. Very nice.
*** (out of 4)
Boris Karloff plays a scientist trying to cure cancer by using frozen animation. Here's a somewhat forgotten gem that works well due in large part to an interesting story, good supporting performances and Karloff at the top of his game. While this is more science fiction than anything else the actual medical work going on remains interesting in the film, which certainly isn't true for other films like this. Karloff is very strong in his role turning in perhaps his strongest performance from any of his Columbia films. A real gem that doesn't run to long and keeps you entertained the whole way.
The Man With Nine Lives establishes the experiment as "frozen therapy", cryogenic science as a method for benefiting mankind, with Karloff's Dr. Leon Kravaal, found in a chamber frozen in ice in his abandoned secret laboratory by Dr. Tim Mason(Roger Pryor) and his nurse/fiancé Judith(Jo Ann Sayers)as they were hoping to uncover notes of his research since he's known as the father of this type of growing medical practice many consider the future for helping the sick and dying. When it's discovered that there are four others in another room of the chamber where he was found, their lives are thrown into a crisis..those who threatened to imprison Kravaal for his frozen therapy, endangering a patient he had under cryogenic sleep, are awakened and despite the obvious success before them threaten to ruin all the potential benefits which could reach the world. See, when threatening to arrest him, Kravaal concocted a solution which could poison them if the liquid were to erupt into gaseous form, when breathed could cause harm. Instead, this solution, as written down while preparing it, stabilized those who ingested it, and so, for ten years, those in the ice chamber rooms remained in a cryogenic state, but kept alive. Unfortunately, Kravaal's nemesis is a greedy nephew who wants the inheritance of his patient in cryogenic sleep, and this maggot rips up and burns the exact written details of the solution which would in fact help prolong human life. This causes Kravaal to shoot him in the back, with others a witness to the murder..seeing as they pose a threat to his developing another solution, in the name of science, he will do whatever it takes to achieve again what has been lost thanks to the vile stupidity of another.
In these kinds of movies, it never ends well for Karloff's scientists. He often achieves extraordinary results, paying the ultimate price, a sacrifice is often made so that others may benefit. In most of these films, Karloff would succumb to his human frailties such as revenge against those who opposed him or caused damage to the potentiality of success in his work. Unlike the mad science of Frankenstein, these Karloff Columbia Pictures grounded their stories in a modern setting, despite how outrageous the experiments might seem, often they still offer a realism, debating how far one should go to increase life expectancy. Those that find his work crazy, most of these films show that Karloff, at first anyway, was completely sane and determined to help his fellow man if allowed to continue his work unabated, and this was so often not the case.
In most of these movies(..like Before I Hang or The Man They Could Not Hang)Karloff is provided a loving daughter who can reason with him in his moments of emotional blackness and despair, even as he threatens the lives of others who have railroaded his mission to bring medical breakthroughs to humankind. The Man With Nine Lives almost entirely takes place within the cramped confines of Kravaal's laboratory, holding prisoner those who were to arrest him, using them as guinea pigs for his experiments concerning the development of a new solution, needing to test his theories, raising the ire of his contemporaries, Tim and Judith, who can see the lengths he's willing to go to achieve success. Again, the story will seem familiar if you have watched other movies Karloff made for Columbia Pictures..if you like them, I think you might like this one as well.
Having discovered a cure for almost, if not all, every terminal diseases by freezing the person afflicted and then having the cold destroy the infected cells was something that medical science, as well as his colleagues, refused to recognize. They all made Dr. Karvaal into nothing but a fool and charlatan who was just out for the money and publicity. Having disappeared from sight some ten years ago with only his writings, in a little black book, being found at his home on a place called Crater Island. This has Dr. Tim Mason, Roger Pryor, so impressed by what he sees in Dr. Kravaal's book that he continues his experiments with astounding success. But still Dr. Mason needs to have the missing doctor to help him in getting his frozen patients to be successfully defrosted. That in order to make his, and Dr. Kravaal's experiments, a complete success that would be recognized and accepted by the entire medical community.
Traveling out to Crater Island with his nurse and fiancée Judy Blair, Jo Ann Sayers, Dr. Mason finds inside the old Kravaal home in a freezer Dr. Kravaal himself frozen stiff after being locked in the freezer for some ten years. Amazingly as Dr. Kravell defrosts he comes back to life! After getting his bearing to being dead, or frozen, for ten years Dr. Kravaal recounts what exactly happened to him. Even more fantastic what happened to the four persons Dr. Bassett, Byron Fougler, Bob Adams, Stanly Brown, D.A John Hawthorne, John Dilson, & Sheriff Stanton, Wally Wales, who were frozen stiff along with him! The four are in the next room, an adjacent, freezer, still alive like himself and waiting to be thawed out.
As usual geniuses like Dr. Kravaal are always misunderstood and treated like insane madmen in movies like this. That causes the good doctor to go wacko and end up killing those, Dr. Bassett Roger Adams D.A Hawthorne & Sheriff Stanton, whom his experiments actually not only saved but proved his point. In freezing the death out of people who are on the brink of death which they all were some ten years ago. Young Roger Adams was the most greedy and ridicules of all those whom Dr. Kravaal offed or did in. Roger grabs his formula, that he wrote on a piece of paper, that would keep people alive while frozen and threw it into the fireplace! It then where an enraged Dr. Kravall shot and killed him. Why did Roger do such an insane thing? Because he was now officially dead after being missing for over seven years and not entitle to his uncle Joseph, who's corpse in in the film was played by Lee Willard, millions that he left for him. The ironic part about all this is that Joseph was a patient of Dr. Kravaal who died because of people like Roger who wouldn't let him treat Joseph because they said that he, Dr. Kravall was nuts.
It's sad to see that Dr. Kravaal getting shot to death by either the state troopers or Canadian Mounties, it's hard to tell which, at the end of the movie. But he never the less did save Judy, whom Dr. Kravall put into suspended animation, from certain death by freezing her and then bringing her back to life just before him himself expired by having re-discovered the secret formula just before the movie ended when he was killed. In the end Dr. Kravaal in discovering a cure for tens of thousands of person who without it would face certain and agonizing death had been more vindicate for whatever bad that he did in the movie.
Boris plays Dr. Leon Kravaal a doctor who has created "frozen therapy"... basically a slightly primitive version of what we call cryogenics today. Dr. Kravaal is awakened after being frozen for 10 years to find that he is accused of murder while conducting his experiment for a cancer cure. Did he murder someone? Did he find a cure for cancer? Is Dr. Kravall mad? You will simply have to watch the film to find out... I will not give it away.
This is a wonderful sci-fi film that I am calling "The Man With Nine Stars"... really the film is that good!! 9/10
The man himself doesn't make his first appearance until about 25 minutes into the film but it hardly matters as he makes up for it.
The film strives for a more claustrophobic look and succeeds brilliantly.
The number of characters aren't many but that's the idea of it.
Karloff always had the knack of emoting both sympathy as well as menace.
The rather modest budget is obvious in places but this film is still worth the viewing.
After having the scientific community rap him on the knuckles Pryor and nurse Jo Ann Sayers are up to the place where Karloff was last heard from. It seems as though Karloff had a place on and island in the middle of a lake where he did his experiments. He and a few others including the sheriff, the coroner, and a young heir went on a boat out to said island and were never heard from again ten years earlier.
What was interesting about The Man With Nine Lives is that Karloff's experiment did have some validity which Pryor's work kind of bears his theory out. That's movie science not necessarily the real thing. Still when Pryor and Sayers go out and find Karloff and the others Karloff has really gone haywire on the subject. As for the others their actions really cause what happens in the climax.
This one will satisfy Boris Karloff fans and others as well.
About my reviews: I do not offer a synopsis of the film -- you can get that anywhere and that does not constitute a meaningful review -- but rather my thoughts and feelings on the film that hopefully will be informative to you in deciding whether to invest 90-180 minutes of your life on it.
My scale: 1-5 decreasing degrees of "terrible", with 5 being "mediocre" 6- OK. Generally held my interest OR had reasonable cast and/or cinematography, might watch it again 7 - Good. My default rating for a movie I liked enough to watch again, but didn't rise to the upper echelons 8- Very Good. Would watch again and recommend to others 9- Outstanding. Would watch over and over; top 10% of my ratings 10 - A Classic. (Less than 2% receive this rating)
It begins when scientist Roger Pryor and nurse Jo Ann Sayers decide to visit ice recovery expert to get Hus help on their own experimentation and find him locked in his own chamber. Telling them of how he was accused of killing a patient during an experiment, he later froze the men who interfered. Defrosting them like chicken, he finds that they are still not ready to allow his experiment to go forward. This leads to more mayhem as Karloff remains calm but gets loonier and loonier.
While this ain't quite Arsenic and Old Ice, it's actually quite funny in the way it takes itself way too seriously. A lame script and cheesy sets puts this on par with the schlock horror films that PRC and Monogram were putting out. At least with those, you knew what you were getting into. Watching this makes me wonder if the alleged freezing of Walt Disney was influenced by this.
I distantly recall a tale of bringing life back with a dark, brooding sinister Karloff obsessed with a purpose. There was of course, a young couple in danger. I recall dark sets, with much of the action in a dark room, or maybe it was even a cave. As I mentioned, it's been a long time. I wish I could recall more, and find this film gem. Does anyone know if a DVD or video company sells this classic of the genre?