THE MAN THEY COULD NOT HANG. Columbia Pictures, 1939. Boris Karloff, Lorna Gray, Robert Wilcox, Roger Pryor, Don Beddoe, Ann Doran, Jo De Stefani, Charles, Trowbridge, Byron Foulger. Director: Nick Grinde.

   If in Night Key (reviewed recently here) Boris Karloff was a bumbling but revengeful old inventor who was seriously wronged, he was at heart a kindly old gentleman with (as I made a point in mentioning) a beautiful daughter. In The Man They Could Not Hang, Mr. Karloff is a scientist, not an inventor, and even before he is serious wronged (see below) he doesn’t have the best of dispositions to begin with.

   But after he is hanged (see the title), his quest for revenge upon the jury, the judge, prosecutor, and the members of the police force who helped convict him turns him into a mad scientist whose vengeance is clever, wicked and just plain diabolical.

   His crime? That of killing a medical student who had willingly agreed to become the subject of Dr. Henryck Savaard’s latest experiment – a crucial one indeed, one in which the student is put to death under controlled conditions, expecting to waken again by means of a strange, weird-looking apparatus in Savaard’s laboratory.

   The police are summoned before the test of the equipment is completed, however, and their intervention means the student cum guinea pig is doomed to a permanent death.

   The middle third of the movie is the slowest moving one, taking place as it does in the courtroom, with plenty of room for the prosecutor and Dr. Savaard to speak their views and respond to the other’s. Savaard suggests that being able to bring patients back to life on the operating table would mean more lives saved during surgery; nix on that, says the D.A.: a death is a death, and murder is murder.

   The last third of the film could have been the most fun, with many of well-recovered Dr. Savaard’s would-be victims locked up together in a booby-trapped house, and for the most part is it is, but the ending seems rushed. Here (not so coincidentally) is also where the mad scientist’s beautiful daughter comes into play – an essential role, to be sure, but one well telegraphed in advance.