Blu Ray Review: The Man Who Could Cheat Death & The Skull

The Man Who Could Cheat Death & The Skull

Legend Films / Paramount






The Man Who Could Cheat Death is Dr. Georges Bonnet, who discovered a surgical means of extending life about 60 years ago.  The surgery has to be repeated every ten years, and near the end of those ten years, a serum has to be taken.

On some level, the film feels like a version of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.  The serum has a side effect of making Bonnet a homicidal maniac.  But unlike Mr. Hyde, who was a metaphor for the darker, animal nature in all of us, Bonnet’s dark alter-ego is just a drug addled maniac.

Produced by Hammer Studios, the masters of Gothic horror, The Man Who Could Cheat Death is not one of their master works.  Bonnet, played by Anton Diifring is a one note character.  He is obsessed with living, and will harm anyone that gets in the way.  Ironically though, he doesn’t seem to do much with his life, other than sculpt and murder a girl once every ten years.

The bigger problem with the movie is that it tips it’s hat really early.  If the ‘horrible’ truth of what he is and what he does to stay alive were built up to, it would have more effect.  Instead, we just have to watch the tertiary characters slowly piece together what we already know.

The second movie in this set is The Skull, produced by Amicus Productions, and starring two Hammer regulars, Peter Cushing (Frankenstein) and Christopher Lee (Dracula).  It’s about the skull of the Marquis de Sade which apparently has been possessed by a demon.  Anyone in possession of the skull finds themselves compelled to kill.

Cushing, playing Dr. Maitland, comes to own the skull, despite the warnings of its previous owner, Lee, playing Philips.  The influence the skull exerts over it’s owner isn’t that strong, as it’s frequently beaten, and it seems kind of random; making people kill themselves, or others, or over pay for things at auctions.

When that fails, the skull floats into the air on very visible strings and chases people.  It’s more silly than horrific.  Cushing and Lee, two of the greatest horror actors of all time, are wasted on the material.

The two movies each have their own Blu Ray.  The video quality is a very good encode of a very bad master.  There’s a lot of faded colors, scratches, and dirt, but they’re all reproduced very well.  There are no extras at all.

This is only the second Hammer movie to be release on Blu Ray so far.  The other one, Vampire Circus, is much better, and a perfect example of what made Hammer great.

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