What is death that it should be feared so much?
George Bonnet (Anton Diffring) is a doctor with a clinic and in his spare time he is also a sculptor. He is also 104 years old. In order to keep his youth he must drink an elixir he prepares every six hours and every ten years he must have surgery to implant in him a parathyroid gland. He gets the glands from people he kills.
Bonnet needs his vital surgery. He asks his old colleague Professor Ludwig Weiss (Arnold Marle) to perform the operation however Weiss has suffered a stroke and can not operate. Weiss suggests that Bonnet find another surgeon. They will tell him only what he needs to know to do the surgery. Bonnet invites Pierre Gerard (Christopher Lee) and Janine Dubois (Hazel Court). Janine is an old flame of Bonnet and is now seeing Gerard.
Weiss finds out that the gland Bonnet acquired came from a living person and not a cadaver. Weiss is outraged. He urges Bonnet to give up his quest for immortality. Of course Bonnet refuses. Weiss tries to sabotage Bonnet’s elixir and Bonnet kills Weiss.
Bonnet asks Gerard to perform the surgery. Gerard refuses. Bonnet locks Janine in a cellar and tells Gerard that if he does not perform the surgery Janine will never be seen again.
“The Man Who Could Cheat Death” is a little known Hammer Production released in 1959. It was directed by Terence Fisher. Again we have Hammer’s usual flair for settings. The movie is basically a remake of the 1945 film “The Man In Half Moon Street” that was based on a play by Barre Lyndon.
The movie is a little slow and a little wordy but otherwise enjoyable. I think viewers liked it more than critics did. There was criticism about Lee underplaying his part but I think that was a good idea. Sir Lee is a tall dark regal looking man. He’s at least half a foot taller than anyone else in the movie. If he hadn’t he would have become the center of the story and that is not the part he was playing. Yes, in the end he basically the hero, but the movie is not about the hero, it is about the bad guy. Anton Diffring does overplay his part, as he should. He is basically insane from this eternal quest and when he starts to change, well, he can’t help it if he’s already bug-eyed. It works for his character. Marle is adorable and well meaning and Court is not only charming and beautiful she is the one that moves the plot along. Something that is needed from time to time.
It’s not a bad movie, but it is a scenario you’ve seen before. It’s still a good movie. Solid acting and good sets. Hammer fans should enjoy it, and as a Christopher Lee fan I enjoyed it too. It’s a good old fashioned horror movie. The European version of the movie had a topless scene with Hazel Court. Of course you won’t see that in the American version. Peter Cushing was offered the lead role, but turned it down.