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The Man Who Could Cheat Death (1959) - Blu-ray Review

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The Man Who Could Cheat Death (1959) - Blu-ray Review

3 beers“I can see death staring me in the face,” says renowned doctor Ludwig Weiss midway through The Man Who Could Cheat Death.  It’s one of many clever lines in this forgotten gem from Hammer Studios.  The horror film doesn’t have the Technicolor swaths of other Hammer releases.   It’s fairly straight-laced, too.  While it co-stars Hammer regular Christopher Lee, the film lacks the passion that energized some of Hammer Studios’ well-known titles.

Yet, for those who want some good old Gothic horror they need look any further than The Man Who Could Cheat Death.  The beginning is creaky, fog-filled fun.  Complete with a dark murder on a cobblestone path, it’s an opening that hints at the dreary nights to come for these characters.

Directed by Terence Fisher (The Curse of Frankenstein) and starring Anton Diffring as sculptor Georges Bonnet, a doctor who has found the secret to eternal life by way of the thyroid gland.  Every 10 years he undergoes a surgery to keep him young.  He’s a young man, but – as revealed – he’s actually 104-years-old.  He passes his time sculpting beautiful women.  He’s never been ill.  Never had a blemish on his skin.  He’s never even coughed.  His secret to lasting life is also the cure for all illness.

Unfortunately, as he nears the end of the 10-year cycle, he must drink a nasty fluid while he searches for a doctor to perform the operation.  When the usual doctor passes – due to a connection he makes between the models Bonnet sculpts and the reports of murdered women every single time Bonnet nears the end of his cycle – he does so in a violent manner, destroying the fluid to preserve Bonnet’s life as he waits for the operation to be completed.

Without the fluid and his normal doctor, Bonnet goes to the extreme and blackmails Pierre Gerard (Lee) into performing the operation by threatening the life of Janine Dubois (Hazel Court), a young lady they both are romantically entangled with, and locking her in basement of horrors.

Fisher, who literally re-invented the gothic structure of film to be full of strong colors and big-bosomed sexuality, unleashes all he is known for with one scene of true horror.  As Bonnet’s true face is revealed, one of his hostages sets him on fire.  The hostages are freed while the basement goes up in flames.  Smoke fills the room, fire licks the camera, and the credits roll while Bonnet screams as he is burned to death.  Chilling.

For nearly 20 years, Hammer Films ruled gothic horror.  While The Man Who Could Cheat Death is a lesser-known title, Kino-Lorber’s blu-ray release will hopefully give the gothic gem a chance to find new life of eternal fame.

Weird science indeed.

The Man Who Could Cheat Death (1959) - Blu-ray Review

MPAA Rating: Not rated.
Runtime:
83 mins
Director
: Terence Fisher
Writer:
Jimmy Sangster
Cast:
Anton Diffring, Hazel Court, Christopher Lee
Genre
: Horror | Sci-fi
Tagline:
His terrifying secret - his hideous obsession made him...
Memorable Movie Quote: "What is death that it should be feared so much?"
Theatrical Distributor:
Paramount Pictures
Official Site:
Release Date:
June, 1951
DVD/Blu-ray Release Date:
March 14, 2017
Synopsis: A centenarian artist and scientist in 1890 Paris maintains his youth ad health by periodically replacing a gland with that of a living person.

The Man Who Could Cheat Death (1959) - Blu-ray Review

Blu-ray

Blu-ray Details:

The Man Who Could CHeat Death (1959) - Blu-ray Review

Home Video Distributor: Kino Lorber
Available on Blu-ray
- March 14, 2017
Screen Formats: 1.66:1
Subtitles
: English SDH
Audio:
English: DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0
Discs: Blu-ray Disc; single disc
Region Encoding: Region A

The film is presented with a 1080p/AVC-encoded transfer using an aspect ratio of 1.66:1.  Colors are earthbound and skin tones are well-saturated.  The detailed image is surprisingly clean given the age of the film.  The clarity of the presentation is solid and the film retains a level of grain that ensures an authentic and credible appearance.  Even dark scenes are rarely problematic, with the blacks proving extremely solid, and the level of accuracy ensuring that this gothic masterpiece is visually absorbing throughout.  The audio is presented in a sufficient 2.0 DTS-HD MA sound mix.

Supplements:

Commentary:

  • Provided by film historian Troy Howarth, the feature length commentary is a solid one that goes into detail about the film’s partnership with Paramount and its production.

Special Features:

Surprisingly, we get more than we usually do from Kino Lorber.  While both are merely interviews, they add a lot of information about the release, Hammer Films, and why Peter Cushing passed on the movie.  One is with Kim Newman and the other is with Jonathan Rigby, both are film historians.

  • Kim Newman Interview (17 min)
  • Jonathan Rigby Interview (17 min)

 

 

The Man Who Could Cheat Death (1959) - Blu-ray Review

 

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