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Transcript - The Man They Could Not Hang (1939) - Cinemassacre's Monster Madness 2009

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James Rolfe: It's Cinemassacre's "Monster Madness"! In the late 30's Boris Karloff played a lot of mad doctor-roles. Of all of them I find this one to be the best.

In "The Man They Could Not Hang" he plays Dr. Savaard who's invented a device that can bring the recently dead back to life. He actually gets a volunteer, a young medical student who allows the doctor to kill him just so he can try to revive him. Definitely a lot faith right there, I must say. But once the doctor kills the poor guy the police come in and he doesn't even get to finish the experiment. 

Then the movie becomes a court-drama for a little while. We feel sympathy for him and we know, or at least assume, that the doctor's experiment would've worked if nobody interfered. But of course he's convicted guilty and sentenced to death. At that moment he addresses the court, telling them how foolish they were because they're losing one the greatest advances in medical science. 

Dr. Savaard: For you to condemn me in my work is a crime so shameful that the judgement of history will be against you for all the years to come! You, mister prosecutor, are guilty of murdering not only me but countless thousands who might have lived, had you not destroyed the only man who could save their lives! 

James: It's a dooming monologue that's one of Karloff's finest moments. A priest comes into his cell to say prayers, but Savaard denies him. Combined with this notion I happened to notice a pentagram-shape on some of the doctor's lab equipment, so perhaps there's some devil work going on here. 

Savaard has the plan all worked out. He gets his assistant to bring him back to life using his own device. It's all in the guise that he's just donating his body to science, which is pretty clever. Now he's back and ready to get revenge on the judge and jury that sentenced him. This is where the movie starts to get really good. 

He invites them all to his house and locks them in. Of course they're all in shock to see him alive again, but Savaard is so casual and cocky about it. This is where the movie is so great, because we can see Savaard knows he's got them all in his trap. And seeing that trap unfold is where the fun is. 

From here on out the guests, or should I say 'victims', try to find a way out, but there are traps at any turn. One of them tries to pick up a phone to call for help, but Savaard rigged it with a pointed object that comes out and stabs the victim through the ear and into the brain. The same idea was used in "Dr. Phibes Rises Again"

Savaard is very much a classic evil mastermind, sorta like Jigsaw from the "Saw" movies, or a James Bond villain. There's nothing like a good bad guy and this is Karloff in one of his most sinister performances. At 1 hour and 4 minutes it's worth your time. 

– Link to video (cinemassacre.com) 

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