MAN WITH NINE LIVES, THE (aka: BEHIND THE DOOR)
(director: Nick Grinde; screenwriter: Karl Brown/story by Harry Shumate; cinematographer: Benjamin Kline; editor: Al Clark; cast: Boris Karloff (Dr. Leon Kravaal), Roger Pryor (Dr. Tim Mason), Jo Ann Sayers (Nurse Judith Blair), John Dilson (District Attorney John Hawthorne), Stanley Brown (Bob Adams), Hal Taliaferro (Sheriff Ed Stanton), Byron Foulger (Dr. Henry Bassett), Charles Trowbridge (Dr. Harvey), Ernie Adams (Pete Daggett), Lee Willard (Jasper Adams); Runtime: 73; MPAA Rating: NR; producers: Irving Briskin/Wallace MacDonald; Columbia Pictures; 1940)
“It stars Boris Karloff at his deliciously insane best as a mad scientist.”
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
Nick Grinde (“Before I Hang”/”Road to Alcatraz”/”Scandal Sheet”) does a first-class job directing this hokey but entertaining prophetic B-film sci-fi thriller. It stars Boris Karloff at his deliciously insane best as a mad scientist. I loved it despite the silly story line from Karl Brown, who has plenty of plot holes that will make you scratch your head; the absurd story of a genius scientist driven to madness by his obsession to cure cancer by his controversial ‘deep freeze’ theory is by Harry Shumate.
Dedicated and brilliant researcher Dr. Tim Mason (Roger Pryor) and his fiancée colleague nurse, Judy Blair (Jo Ann Sayers), go on a forced sabbatical as the stern hospital head, Dr. Harvey (Charles Trowbridge), is not too pleased with Mason’s publicity seeking unorthodox experiments that hint that he developed a cure for cancer even if he did cure his patient. The couple trek to the boondocks in the mountains near the Canadian border, to a place called Silver Lake. There they hire a row boat to take them to the haunted-like Crater Island house of Dr. Leon Kravaal (Boris Karloff), a genius scientist hermit that authorities believe went over the edge and vanished ten years ago along with four locals. Tim has been following Kravaal’s edgy experiments on “frozen therapy” and would like to get a hold of the daring researcher’s notes, which is the reason for the visit
In a jiffy, the couple locate Kravaal’s secret lab 100 feet below ground level (why the police couldn’t, is beyond me!) and then find him locked in an ice chamber. They revive him and learn he has been kept alive in a frozen condition, which contradicts the naysayers. Kravaal relates to them a bizarre story of being interfered with ten years ago when he treated his millionaire patient Jasper Adams with his “frozen therapy, by four obnoxious negative men–Sheriff Stanton (Hal Taliaferro), District Attorney John Hawthorne (John Dilson), Bob Adams (Stanley Brown), the heir to Jasper’s fortune, and, the coroner, Dr. Bassett (Byron Foulger). The men came to arrest him in his house if they found his patient dead and when they failed to believe him that he could revive Jasper, he overtook them before they could arrest him and the five of them remained in the ice chamber. With that Tim and Kravaal revive the four men. When an irate Bob learns that he cannot collect on his inheritance from his uncle because he has been declared legally dead for ten years, he tosses Kravaal’s invaluable formula for the cancer serum in the fire and Kravaal fatally shoots him. Kravaal then keeps everyone as guinea pigs to see if he can re-discover the serum formula, and it becomes a fight for survival. But just as Kravaal is about to experiment on Judy, after botching in a deadly way to get the serum to work on the nasty foursome, the boatman (Ernie Adams) returns with state troopers to rescue Judy and Tim. A dying Kravaal, shot by the trooper, says he’s glad he made the self-sacrifice for mankind and pleads with the idealistic Tim to carry on his work.
We’re left with the hope that Tim will not go bonkers like his mentor and come up with the cure for cancer, as Dr. Harvey welcomes him back to the hospital to continue his radical cancer research now that he has Kravaal’s notes and approval from the legit scientific community.
REVIEWED ON 11/2/2009 GRADE: B-