The Man Who Could Cheat Death
The Man Who Could Cheat Death – 1959 | 80 mins | Horror, Sci-Fi | Colour
In 1959, Paramount turned over the remake rights to their 1944 thriller, The Man in Half Moon Street to Hammer Films. Shot underthe title The Man in the Rue Noire, the completed production was released as TheMan Who Could Cheat Death. A delicate treatment of the Dorian Gray theme basedon Barre Lyndon’s play of the same name, it emerged from the Jimmy Sangster treatment rather less delicate but still showing signs of its stage origin. Sangster injected a great deal of dialogue into the script and the storylinehas a scarcity of the physical horror for which Hammer had become famous. TerenceFisher’s direction is a trifle leaden, but its stately pace suits the age ofthe material. According to Sangster, nobody was particularly happy with the picture. The sumptuous production design was one area beyond reproach thanks to the efforts of lighting cameraman Jack Asher and production designer BernardRobinson.
In casting Bonnet, Hammer turned to Anton Diffring. Glacially glamorous, Diffring was best known for his portrayals of Nazi officers, and it showed as he brought unsympathetic maniacal intensity to the role. Cast-against-type Christopher Lee‘s upright surgeon, however, is an interesting supporting role and stylishly played. Arnold Marie’s wizened Dr Weiss – retained, likeDiffring, from the 1957 TV version – is enjoyably theatrical. Scream queen Hazel Court, despite contributing a topless modelling scene to the European print that was cut from the domestic version, has little to do.
Paris, 1890. Amateur sculptor Dr Georges Bonnet is 104but looks 35. His secret is a series of gland transplants from beautiful women. He needs a new uter-parathyroid gland at ten-yearly intervals in order to preserve his youth, and has resorted to murder to get it. He is now due for another transplant, but when Bonnet’s elderly associate Dr Weiss arrives, he is too infirm to carry out the operation. Weiss suggests his colleague Dr Gerrard carries out the operation, but when he refuses, so Bonnett kidnaps the girl Gerrard is attracted to, and vows only to release her if the operation is a success. Dr Gerrard reluctantly consents.
Terence Fisher: Director
Jack Asher: Cinematography
Molly Arbuthnot: Costume and Wardrobe Departmen
James Needs: Editorial Department
John Dunsford: Film Editing
Henry Montsash: Makeup Department
Roy Ashton: Makeup Department
Richard Rodney Bennett: Original Music
Michael Carreras: Producer
Bernard Robinson: Production Design
Jimmy Sangster: Script
Jock May: Sound Department
Anton Diffring: Dr Georges Bonnet
Hazel Court: Janine Dubois
Christopher Lee: Dr Pierre Gerard
Arnold Marlé: Prof Ludwig Weiss
Delphi Lawrence: Margo Phillipe
Francis De Wolff: Insp LeGris