Most helpful critical review
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
Perpetual life, it's a killer!
on 23 August 2012
The Man Who Could Cheat Death is directed by Terence Fisher and adapted to screenplay by Jimmy Sangster from the Barré Lyndon play The Man in Half Moon Street. It stars Anton Diffring, Hazel Court, Christopher Lee, Arnold Marlé, Francis de Wolff and Delphi Lawrence. Out of Hammer Film Productions, music is by Richard Rodney Bennett and Technicolor photography by Jack Asher.
Paris 1890 and sculptor Georges Bonnet (Diffring) has perfected a way to halt the aging process. Trouble is that it involves murdering young women so as to extract their parathyroid gland to formulate his eternal life elixir.
Disappointingly weak Hammer Horror that would be near unwatchable were it not for the efforts of Asher, Fisher and Bernard Robinson (production design). The source story is made to measure for Hammer, where berserker science mixes with Gothic murder tones, all the ingredients are there for a lively fusion of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde with The Picture of Dorian Gray. But the film is more concerned with much talking and posturing, thinking that sci-fi babble and moral quandaries are going to keep things interesting. We of course want some meat and reasoning for main characters to impact on the plotting, but using up an hour for it, in a film that only runs an hour and twenty minutes, leaves very little room for thrills and drama. It also demands that the finale be explosive, a whirlwind of horror revelations and biting comeuppance, sadly the ending we get is rather a damp squib.
Things aren't helped by the casting of Diffring, who overacts far to often, or that Lee is underwritten and firmly disinterested in making the thin characterisation work. Court looks ravishing and gives the film its best performance, but she is also hindered by a bare bones script from the usually excellent Sangster. The story just plods to its inevitable conclusion, the screenplay never daring to veer away from the safe formula road. While much of the detective work from de Wolff's Inspector LeGris leaves a great deal to be desired. On the plus side it looks real nice, a triumph over low budget restrictions, the minimal sets dressed in period splendour, the colour sizzling and Fisher uses wide shots to make certain scenes that are played out on tiny sets actually look expansive.
Devoid of up-tempo terror and finishing on a whimper, this is very much average Hammer and not easily recommended to the horror faithful. 5/10