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      The Man They Could Not Hang

      Released Aug 17, 1939 1h 5m Sci-Fi List
      71% Tomatometer 7 Reviews 73% Audience Score 250+ Ratings An executed man returns from the grave to seek revenge against the killers who framed him and sent him to the gallows. Read More Read Less Watch on Fandango at Home Buy Now

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      Critics Reviews

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      Frank S. Nugent New York Times If you don't know Mr. Karloff by this time, we will explain: He is the man whose funerals are never final. You lay a wreath on Boris in one corner and he is certain to appear in another, full of obscure, graveyard resentment. Mar 25, 2006 Full Review Matt Brunson Film Frenzy A nifty yarn. Rated: 3/4 Mar 13, 2023 Full Review Josephine O'Neill Daily Telegraph (Australia) Another dash Into medical research by that busy savant, Boris Karloff. Oct 19, 2020 Full Review TV Guide This picture is the first of three similar films Karloff made under the direction of Nick Grinde- Rated: 2.5/5 Oct 18, 2016 Full Review Dennis Schwartz Dennis Schwartz Movie Reviews The B-film story might be weak, but Boris Karloff gives a strong performance. Rated: B- Nov 3, 2009 Full Review Ken Hanke Mountain Xpress (Asheville, NC) Works quite well, even though the mayhem doesn't get all that far. Rated: 4/5 Aug 29, 2006 Full Review Read all reviews

      Audience Reviews

      View All (18) audience reviews
      Josh G A fun premise with a with some good actors but the third act fall flat and seems to be a unfinished film to a point. The idea is a super cool scifi but we spend so much time in court or just hanging out with other characters loosely affected by the invention the is cool but a mcguffin. Rated 3 out of 5 stars 02/22/23 Full Review Audience Member Karloff is as strong as ever, but the film around him is silly despite a great, and obviously influential set up. The rest of the cast isn't much but it's still a fun little film Rated 2.5 out of 5 stars 02/04/23 Full Review Audience Member Boris Karloff is awesome as usual, even if some of his supporting cast isn't the best he's worked with. The script, especially the dialogue, is the shining star of this movie, though it seems to end far earlier than it should've. The aesthetics are classy and reminiscent of the wave of flicks that this film is grouped in. It's not a perfect film, but it IS the inspiration for Abominable Dr. Phibes, House on Haunted Hill, Saw, Psycho and more. Definitely give it a watch. B Rated 4 out of 5 stars 02/05/23 Full Review Audience Member Boris Karloff gives a great performance in this strange, flawed film. The beginning is rough but it picks up and has an exciting final act. Rated 3 out of 5 stars 01/20/23 Full Review Audience Member When you think of Boris Karloff, you immediately think of his outings as Frankenstein's monster in film. But during his career, unlike the typecasted Béla Lugosi, he had a number of different roles; he was in dramas, crime thrillers, war epics, and he also provided the voice of the Grinch in the 1966 TV special "How the Grinch Stole Christmas!" But horror was his main genre, and mad scientists were a specialty for him. Released in 1939, mere months after "Son of Frankenstein," "The Man They Could Not Hang" was a particularly special outing. Karloff plays Dr. Henryk Savaard, a scientist who's invented a machine that can bring the recently dead back to life so that doctors can have more time to cure their injuries or illnesses. One of his medical students, Bob Roberts (Stanley Brown), volunteers to let Savaard kill him and then try out the machine on him to make him alive again. But Roberts' fiancée Betty Crawford (Ann Doran) panics and gets the police. They arrest Savaard for murder before he even has a chance to use his machine; he's convicted and sentenced to death, but with his assistant Lang's help, he returns to exact his vengeance on the judge, jury and prosecution that condemned him. The story is an archetype of the time period; there were many stories about scientific inventions and discoveries. Along with that, it's actually broken up into three different stories: the first story where Savaard tries out his invention, the second story in the courtroom where he's pleading on his behalf but is found guilty, and the third where he returns from the dead and goes on his rampage. The first story is flawed, but still pretty good. I've always had a problem with Betty's character in this sequence. On the one hand, I can understand her skepticism and fear; her fiancée is about to be put to death, and she's scared he won't wake up. But the fact that she's Savaard's nurse presents a problem for me. If she didn't know him, and therefore didn't trust him that much, I could understand her feelings. But she surely knows the guy, surely knows his capabilities as a scientist, so why would she be that quick to go to the police? Then when the police actually do show up, I agree with reporter Scoop Foley (Robert Wilcox) when he says they may as well leave Savaard alone because since Roberts is already dead, what more harm can he do to him? This sequence mostly just holds up because of Karloff's conviction during these scenes, his pleading for them to leave him to his work. The second act is probably the least interesting; it plays out like a typical courtroom drama, though executed relatively well. Savaard tries to convince everyone that he was attempting a breakthrough in the scientific world, looking for a new link in humanity; it's evocative of Colin Clive's performance in "Frankenstein," in my opinion. He seems like someone who legitimately wants to do good in the world. Interestingly enough, the idea of Savaard's invention would later become reality in the form of open-heart surgery, minus the patient having to actually die, of course. Talk about life imitating art. Anyway, I do like how not all of the jury thinks he's a crackpot; there are those who understand his ambitions. So when Savaard is brought back to life, he is bitter and cold, believing that even with his invention successful, the scientific community will never accept him. He gathers the judge, jury and prosecution at his house under false invitations, and basically lays a hoard of death traps for them. This is when the movie more than makes up for its shaky start. Karloff is at his best when he gets to be really cocky and sinister, and I love watching the expression on his face; he knows he has these people right where he wants them. Yet he's still classy the whole time, not punishing those who he feels don't deserve it. Now I know I seem to focus quite a bit on the negative aspects of "The Man They Could Not Hang," but this is one that I really enjoy. Karloff holds it all together, but Lorna Gray also does a fine job playing his daughter Janet. She becomes horrified at the acts he undertakes in the climax, but they seem to still have a genuine mutual love for each other. The traps Savaard lays are really clever, and these people don't seem like idiots; they act how I'd imagine real people would react. And just like "Frankenstein," the movie does seem to bring up a number of questions regarding life and death, and if mankind even deserves to know the answers. The issues I brought up are very minor, save for the scene with Betty early on. My only real complaint would be what isn't in the movie: character interactions. This movie is short, only about 64 minutes long. But I would have liked it very much if there were more sit-down conversations between some of these characters. Maybe one between Savaard and Betty regarding the invention of his, or between Janet and Betty regarding who's to blame in this whole matter, or how about between Savaard and Lang (Byron Foulger)? Lang brings him back to life, but he's only mentioned once after that with a quick explanation that Savaard had him killed for threatening to expose his evil intentions. Couldn't we have seen something, or at least gotten something more substantial than one quick line about it? But I usually try to judge movies based on what they do have rather than what they don't have; this was just what I feel would have propelled this film into near-perfect territory. But all things considered, this movie is really good. Karloff soaks up every bit of dialogue he speaks, and he's basically excelling at what he does best. Sure, the movie has some flaws, but it's still definitely worth the watch. Rated 4.5 out of 5 stars 02/02/23 Full Review Audience Member This movie is unbelievable and kind of silly, but I liked it, it was a fun mad scientist movie with Karloff. There was really good suspense and a good actors. Rated 4 out of 5 stars 01/22/23 Full Review Read all reviews
      The Man They Could Not Hang

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      Cast & Crew

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      Movie Info

      Synopsis An executed man returns from the grave to seek revenge against the killers who framed him and sent him to the gallows.
      Nick Grinde
      Wallace MacDonald
      Karl Brown
      Columbia Pictures
      Production Co
      Columbia Pictures Corporation
      Original Language
      Release Date (Theaters)
      Aug 17, 1939, Original
      Release Date (Streaming)
      Apr 16, 2012
      1h 5m
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