Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Film #13: The Man They Could Not Hang (1939)

Rejoice for the miracles of science!
Octomom’s octuplets?! They would just be a twinkle in Nayda Suleman’s eye -- without science.
Processed meat?! Beef, turkey and rat steak would cry with loneliness, condemned to hug a plate in solitude… without science.
Don’t even get us started on the horrors of a world without Press-on nails!

Sure, our lives are better because of these scientific accomplishments. But all marvels of the modern age could never compare to the truly fantastic invention showcased in the 1930s film “The Man They Could Not Hang.”
Title character Dr. Henryk Savaard is a brilliant sawbones who created a machine that could somehow – gasp! – keep a person’s heart and bodily functions operating by machine alone! Yeah, we’re with you, disbelievers. Mechanical life support systems? Pssst! Leave it to the movies to come up with such absurd ideas.

Okay, maybe a mechanical heart would be more enthralling to folks in 1939. After all, back then they were curing heart disease with leaches, a pint of buttermilk, and a back shave. Dr. Savaard spent years creating his machine, but he needs to test it on a human subject. Enter the completely inconsiderate medical student, who forgos his fiancé's cries and agrees to let Savaard stop all his bodily functions in order to test the machine. Boy, the things men do to get out of a wedding!

Midway through the experiment, the med student’s fiancé goes all Andy Dick and calls the police, stating Savaard murdered her lover! Stupid dames!
The police storm Savaard’s house, find the chillin’ student, and place the doctor under arrest. Savaard tries to explain, saying if they would only let him go he could revive the unresponsive test subject. The coppers don’t buy it, and off to the iron bar hotel he goes.

At the lead of a crusading district attorney, a jury pool of backwoods yokels take a horse whiz on scientific nobility and convict Savaard of murder. His sentence, a Texas necktie party. Before he is led to jail, Dr. Savaard flips a verbal bird to each person who convicted him, vowing his revenge from beyond the gallows!
Months later, one by one the jury members are found strung up by their necks in what police first believe are suicides. Soon an awesomely old-school newspaper man who covered the Savaard trial connects the dots. Could Dr. Savaard have returned from the grave to enact his revenge? Find out, in the 1939 popcorn thriller “The Man They Could Not Hang.”

RDHP Review and Ratings:

C-Rating: 3.1
Chris Dimick orates:
"Movies are more fun when you get to root for the bad guy. Most of us try to be good and follow the rules of society. Yet all that goodness can be so lame. It is cathartic to cheer for a character, even the unsavory ones, as they exact revenge on those who done them wrong. No actor can illicit this sympathy for the villain better than Boris Karloff, the star of “The Man They Could Not Hang.”
Maybe it is his insanely interesting voice, deliberate acting or dark, evil eyes. But when Boris takes to the screen, all a person can do is side with him -- right or wrong. He is just so entertaining to root for.

This movie tore ass through the plot. It had to with a run time of just 64 minutes. Really, it could have been longer. Things didn’t start to get interesting until the last 15 minutes, when the remaining jurors and prosecutors unknowingly enter a horrific trap inside Dr. Savaard’s home. Each is told they will die at a specific time, and then accidentally contributes to their own demise – with a little nudging from a dead man. The third movement of this film is the most exciting, but also the most rushed. When the characteristic-1930s abrupt ending came, I was left wanting more killing of those stupid-ass jurors! Dr. Savaard deserved more revenge, yet both he and the audience are constrained from satisfaction by the short run time.

The Whats-What: TMTCNH is a great movie to watch when in a hurry to catch the latest episode of LOST, but don’t arrive to the movie wanting a lot of substance. You’ll leave wanting more, and feeling guilty for siding with evil."

N-Rating: 3.0
Nick Rich orates:
"Talk about a film with heart! It didn't originally have one so they made the main invention of the film a glass one! Now that I have my requisite horrible pun out of the way I can actually tell you that The Man They Could Not Hang was rather enjoyable.
Good ol' Boris is hard-pressed to disappoint in my experience with him, and his performance in this film further solidified that impression! There's just something about Karloff that makes you want to listen to him for hours on end... which actually worked against his favor in this film considering its run time. You really have nothing to lose checking out this film - and just may gain an enjoyable hour!

The kitschy plot is nostalgically endearing, especially paired with the scenes dripping with stereotypical 1930's fair (i.e. the newspaper man culture, gruff coppers, slimy lawyers, ignorant/scared townsfolk and "delicate" women). This film felt crisp, clean and oddly wholesome - like biting into a freshly picked apple. Of course there were a few worms... the occasional poor line delivery (even by Boris), plot holes (in the end we still weren't sure what the machine physically did) and annoying suspension of disbelief (some characters were unnecessarily dim). However, the ignorance and poor choices the characters made in this film ending up making me more passionate about it - Chris and I both yelled (multiple times) at the hapless nurse who indirectly killed her fiancé because of her own fear and inability to follow instructions.

The Skinny: If you're in the mood for greased hair, fast talking, smoking in any situation and the days when newspapers were relevant, then by golly, TMTCNH may be just up your alley, mister!
P.S. Chris, don't think I didn't notice your cloned copy of The Skinny ("The What's-What")! Remember, cloning never turns out well..."

Things We Learned From Watching The Man They Could Not Hang:
-Standard rates for freaks: 50 cents to look, $1 to touch
-Bike chains work great for motorized hearts
-Ground breaking surgery should be performed in your personal home
-Heart transplants with perfectly healthy people is totally cool if they volunteer
-Mechanical heart pumps look like glass breast implants
-Every gift science gives to man gets twisted it into a thing of hatred

RDHP Salutes Miracles of Science:
(For when you're just too high to give a sh*t)

(We still can’t figure out how they get so much flavor into one tiny square!)

Air Freshener
(What did we do with those Jurassic smells before?)

The Wheel
(Not just for travel)

(Soooo many uses!)

(How else could we handle life?)

(They are half ice and half pop! WTF? This must be an instrument of the devil!
Burn the witch, burn the witch!)

Fanny Banks
(How did we save our money before this came along?
I’ve heard of coin slots, but this is ridiculous!)

Air travel
(Terrorist free since December 2009!)

(How did people get around before science came up with these little wonders?)

Hot dogs
(Causing delicious cancer since 1893!)

(There is no better way to unwind after a long day at the office)

Printing Press
(Three wonderful words. Tiger Beat magazine)

The Internets
(What did people do to waste time at work before this invention?)

Mobile homes
(For centuries the trash of society had to just sleep in the streets)

(Each year these little lady robots get more and more realistic looking!)

Body Parts the RDHP Would Replace If We Could
-Eyebrows (if only we had the full shields of Jason Schwartzman!)
-Hair (so it would be affordable to be Powder for Halloween)
-Appendix (it would be nice not have a ticking-time-bomb-deathtrap in us)
-Our inner thighs (curse our mothers for giving them to us!)
-Our tiny boobies (All those racy men’s magazines make us feel so inadequate)

Things That Sound like Boris Karloff:
Karloff has one of the most mesmerizing voices (you've heard him narrating the animated How The Grinch Stole Christmas). Here, things that remind us of his mouth-sounds...
A British frog
Chris when romancing himself in the bathroom mirror
Soft lullabies
Corpses choking
Auto GPS systems (we wish!)
Grandpa mumbling in his sleep
That man who lives at the bus stop

Welcome to the Random Corner:

Random Song:
This little ditty has been in Chris' head since watching The Man They Could Not Hang. All that science talk must have done it:

Random Thing Scarier than this Movie:
While a “horror movie” per say, The Man They Could Not Hang was quite tame even by 1930s standards. For true terror, turn your head to the seas and behold the puke-inducing sight of
Read the hilarious story (thanks, Michelle) by Chicago Tribune columinist John Kass at,0,7154335.column?page=1

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