Starring: Anton Diffring, Christopher Lee, Helen Court
Director: Terence Fisher
A celebrated doctor, a brilliant sculptor – Georges Bonnet (Anton Diffring) might seem like an over-achiever, but then he does have a lot of time on his hands: he’s 106 years old and still going strong thanks to an artificial method of prolonging his youth! That said, he’s due for his 10-yearly organ replacement, and the bubbling green potion he has to keep swallowing in the meantime is making him seriously cranky…
With the studio’s old firm of director Terence Fisher, scriptwriter Jimmy Sangster and cinematographer Jack Asher all present and correct, it’s hard to see how The Man Who Could Cheat Death could be anything other than vintage Hammer. Sadly, it’s weighed down by a shortage of scares, a wordy script and a lead performance by Diffring that steers the film away from horror into the arena of mawkish, moonstruck melodrama. Still, there are a few good B-movie moments courtesy of Jack Asher and his lurid green gels, and the scenes of Bonnet’s old flame Janine (Hazel Court) posing for him (plus the resulting very naked-looking sculptures) add a welcome frisson of eroticism to proceedings.
One for Hammer completists, then, but it’s rarity makes it an attractive buy. 6/10
The transfer is a little soft and grainy, and flesh tones look somewhat washed out. However, the plush 1890’s Parisian set-dressing comes up nicely, as do the occasional weird-science lighting effects. And in case you’re wondering, no reappearance in this print of the mythical lost footage for European markets of Hazel Court going topless. 6/10
Very nice interviews with two of the people you most want to hear from when it comes to Hammer. ~ Sitting on his usual sofa, Kim Newman talks for 17-mins about the film’s origins as a remake of the Paramount movie The Man in Half Moon Street and explains how Peter Cushing was due to play the lead but backed out. ~ 17-min interview with Jonathan Rigby, who makes a few wry comments about the film’s flaws as well as serving up info about the original source play and some of the real-life rejuvenating therapies that might have inspired the story. 7/10