Cast & Crew
Jo Ann Sayers
Dr. Tim Mason, a brilliant young scientist, has been experimenting with cryogenics using theories propounded by Dr. Leon Kravaal, who mysteriously disappeared ten years earlier. When the press publicizes Tim's research, the public believes that he has discovered a cure for cancer, and the hospital in which he works is inundated with desperate pleas for help from cancer patients. As a result, the hospital sends the young doctor away until the publicity dies down. Accompanied by his fiancéé, nurse Judith Blair, Tim sets out for the Canadian border and hires a boat from Pete Daggett to take him to Crater Island, from which Kravaal disappeared. In Kravaal's home, Blair falls through the floor boards and discovers a secret passage that leads to a room with a temperature of one hundred degrees below zero. There Blair and Tim find Kravaal's frozen body. Once revived, Kravaal tells Tim that ten years before a party of four, including Sheriff Stanton, District Attorney John Hawthorne, Bob Adams and Dr. Bassett, came to arrest him because they believed he had killed Bob's uncle, Jasper Adams, and that during the arrest they all became trapped in the ice room. Tim and Kravaal begin to revive the four men, but when Bob Adams learns that he cannot collect on his uncle's life insurance because he has been legally dead for ten years, he destroys the delicate thawing formula. Kravaal then insists on using the three remaining frozen men in an experiment designed to reconstruct his success. After Kravaal shoots and kills Adams, Stanton is killed while attempting an escape, and Hawthorne and Dr. Bassett die from the effects of the experiments. Just as Kravaal is about to experiment on Judith, a search party led by Daggett arrives, and the demented scientist is killed.
Jo Ann Sayers
The Man With Nine Lives
In the first film of the series, Karloff's mission was bringing people back from the dead (a motif used to great effect in a revival of the mad doctor genre, the 1985 horror comedy Re-Animator). In The Man with Nine Lives he is involved in something with a stronger basis in scientific fact. As Dr. Leon Kravaal, he develops a potential cure for cancer that requires his patients to be frozen in order to use a revolutionary new serum on them. When government officials believe he has killed a patient in an experiment gone awry, Kravaal freezes them and himself. Their bodies are discovered years later by his assistant and unfrozen, allowing the doctor the potential to refine his process. But greed, corruption, and bureaucratic small-mindedness combine to derail the project with deadly results.
Perhaps part of the appeal of these mad scientist pictures is that they are, at least in hindsight, based very loosely on some real fact. In various stories in the series, Karloff worked with artificial hearts, brain transplants, means of communicating with the dead (something America's most famous inventor, Thomas Edison, was engaged in for several years near the end of his life), and here, cryogenics, a precursor to later cancer treatments that involved lowering a patient's body temperature prior to surgery. Of course, the methods are distinctly kooky; in this story, for instance, the means of freezing patients necessitates large, well-placed ice cubes, and reviving them which is akin to pumping them full of hot coffee.
Both The Man with Nine Lives and The Man They Could Not Hang 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. He continued his experiments for a few more years, although he was denied access to the cadavers of prisoners put to death in the state prison system. Cornish reportedly served as a technical adviser to the earlier film, and a low budget feature called Life Returns (1935), was made about his exploits but dumped by Universal as an unsuitable release bearing their trademark.
The Man with Nine Lives, The Man They Could Not Hang, and Before I Hang were all directed by Nick Grinde, who had a very busy career in the 1930s (he made close to 40 movies in one decade) turning out popular B movie programmers for various studios. He also reportedly worked uncredited on this screenplay to unintentional comic effect.
Director: Nick Grinde
Producer: Irving Briskin, Wallace MacDonald (Both uncredited)
Screenplay: Karl Brown, story by Harold Shumate
Cinematography: Benjamin Kline
Editing: Al Clark
Art Direction: Lionel Banks
Cast: Boris Karloff (Dr. Leon Kravaal), Roger Pryor (Dr. Tim Mason), Jo Ann Sayers (Nurse Judith Blair), Stanley Brown (Bob Adams), Hal Taliaferro (Sheriff Ed Stanton).
by Rob Nixon
The Man With Nine Lives
Working titles for this film were The Man Without a Face, The Man Who Would Not Die, and Behind the Door.