Anton Diffring in The Man Who Could Cheat Death (1959)


(director: Terence Fisher; screenwriter: Jimmy Sangster/based on the play The Man in Half-Moon Street by Barré Lyndon; cinematographer: Jack Asher; editor: John Dunsford; music: Richard Bennett; cast: Anton Diffring (Dr. Georges Bonner), Delphi Lawrence (Margo), Arnold Marle (Dr. Ludwig Weiss), Christopher Lee (Dr. Pierre Gerard), Hazel Court (Janine Dubois), Francis De Wolff (Inspector Legris); Runtime: 83; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Michael Carreras; Hammer Films (Paramount); 1959-UK)

A horror pic misstep for Terence Fisher.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

A horror pic misstep for Terence Fisher(“The Curse of Frankenstein”/”The Curse of the Werewolf”/”The Devil’s Bride”). It’s a remake of The Man in Half-Moon Street (1945). It was originally a play created by Barré Lyndon. Jimmy Sangster writes the screenplay. The stage version also starred Anton Diffring, who was known for playing sadistic Nazi officers.

In Paris, in 1890, Anton Diffring is Dr. Georges Bonnet, a surgeon and an amateur sculptor, who keeps young and immortal by taking his special serum and by having a series of gland operations every ten years from living donors. He looks 35 but is actually 104. His lover Margo ( Delphi Lawrence) disturbs him before he takes his serum and he begins to shrivel and she goes into shock. Another problem arises because his usual surgeon, Dr. Weiss (Arnold Marle), is too old to operate anymore and the new doctor trained is Pierre Gerrard (Christopher Lee). Though Gerrard doesn’t care for the sculptor because his girlfriend Janine (Hazel Court) has a crush on him, he agrees to do the operation to improve his doctoring skills. But when Dr. Weiss discovers Bonnet obtained his replacement gland by killing another for it, he objects. Bonnet kills the protesting Dr. Weiss. Bonnet then finds out Dr. Gerrard will not perform the operation without assistance from Dr. Weiss. Bonnet thereby threatens to harm Janine unless Gerrard complies with his wishes. Janine has seen Margo become demented and wants no part in Bonnet’s plans to make her his immortal bride. In the end, things unravel for Bonnet and he gets his come-comeuppance when a revengeful Margo turns the tables on him and he goes down looking his true age in flames.

It’s a competently made film that reminds one of Dorian Gray, but is just not as thought-provoking. Anton Diffring performance is striking.