"That’s about the nicest collection of sudden death I’ve ever seen."
Dr. Tim Mason (Roger Pryor) is a medical researcher doing experiments on what is called “frozen therapy” or cryogenics. It is a way of putting a patient into suspended animation through cold so that doctors have more time to perform advanced surgeries. To try to learn more about the technique he visits the deserted home of Dr. Leon Kravaal (Boris Karloff). Dr. Kravaal is the scientist who developed the therapy. He has been missing for 10 years along with four other people that were known to have gone out to the island where Kravaal was doing experiments.
While inspecting the home his nurse and girlfriend Judith Blair (Jo Ann Sayers) steps on a rotting board and falls through to a basement. In the basement they find a tunnel. Following it they next find a stairway to a subbasement. In the subbasement are a skeleton and a door. Behind the door is the doctor’s secret laboratory. In the laboratory is another door. Behind it is a solid wall of ice. Encased in the ice is Dr. Kravaal.
Dr. Mason digs through the ice and extracts the doctor. He thaws the doctor and Kravaal comes back to life after 10 years of being frozen in ice. Once awakened Kravaal explains what happened that resulted in his being frozen along with four other people who wanted to stop him. Sheriff Stanton (Hal Taliaferro), John Hawthorn the DA (John Dilson), Dr Bassett (Byron Foulger) the coroner and Bob Adams (Stanley Brown) son of Kravaal’s patient. Kravaal brings the other four back to life. Bob, in a hissy fit because he is now considered dead and can’t claim his uncle’s estate, burns the doctor’s formula sending the doctor over the deep end. Now Kravaal needs to recreate his formula and he will do whatever he needs to in order to accomplish that.
"The Man With Nine Lives" was released in 1941 and was directed by Nick Grinde. I can’t blame Dr. Kravaal too much. Yes, he is responsible for the death of the men he experimented on but by that time he was clinically insane. As for the men, they invaded his home, verbally and physically threatened and assaulted him, and tried to arrest him. Mob mentality at work.
I’ve read some reviews that panned the movie. Sometimes I think reviewers are more critical of a move because of the era it was made in rather than the movie itself. That’s unfair. Movies from the 30’s to even the 60’s are more misogynistic because men were stupider then. It’s not the movies fault. Also experiments that would now be considered preposterous are judged looking through a current day lens. Again we are talking about 1940 where these types of experiments were in the realm of science fiction not in the realm of fact.
I of course liked the movie. But then I’m not a critic. Just a lover of old horror movies.
Reportedly both "The Man with Nine Lives" and "The Man They Could Not Hang" 1939 were based in part on the real-life saga of Dr. Robert Cornish, a University of California professor who, in 1934, announced he had restored life to a dog named Lazarus that he had put to death by clinical means. The resulting publicity (including a Time magazine article and motion picture footage of the allegedly re-animated canine) led to Cornish being booted off campus.