The Man Who Could Cheat Death (1959)

Based on the play The Man in Half Moon Street, which was already made into a movie in 1945 and a TV movie 18 months before this was released, this Terrence Fisher-directed film was originally going to star Peter Cushing. However, the actor was exhausted following The Hound of the Baskervilles and stepped out six days before filming was to begin.

Hammer threatened him with legal action, but since there was no contract, there wasn’t much they could do. The lead role went to Anton Diffring, who had previously played the part of Dr. Georges Bonnet in the aforementioned TV version of the story that had appeared on the British show Hour of Mystery.

Released in the U.S. by Paramount, it played drive-ins until well into the 1960s, supporting Dr. Terror’s House of Horrors as late as 1965.

This is the story of playboy scientist and sculptor Dr. Georges Bonnet, who may look like a vibrant thirtysomething but is truly 104-years-old, staying alive through parathyroid gland transplants every decade. His personal surgeon, Professor Ludwig Weiss, can no longer operate after his stroke, so Bonnet must drink a steaming green drink to get a month of youth at a time. Now, the hunt is on to find a new surgeon to complete his vitality regimen.

The police start catching on to Bonnet, as models go missing every time he needs a transplant. Or maybe they just want to arrest him for obscenity — the European release of the film featured a scene in which Court appeared topless, which is cut from the UK and U.S. prints and has been lost — as he loves sculpting nude ladies like Janine Dubois (Hazel Court, who was my favorite character in The Masque of the Red Death, Julianna).

Of course, our antagonist soon finds himself running out of options and death starts creeping up on him, at which point he starts killing a number of models and surgeons. He also rekindles his romance with Janine, but it’s to no avail. Time comes for all men, even The Man Who Could Cheat Death.

And hey! Christopher Lee is a surgeon in this!

It’s a bit talky, but hey, Hammer is Hammer. It’s definitely a high class operation all the way and you could see how a lesser studio would make this much scummier. There’s always a veneer of class even when topless art models are having their glands harvested when this studio makes the picture.

You can watch this on Tubi.

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