Before I Hang

08/27/2015 21:11

Film: Before I Hang

Year: 1940

Director: Nick Grinde

Writer: Robert Hardy Andrews and Karl Brown

Starring: Boris Karloff, Evelyn Keyes and Bruce Bennett



This film begins informing us that a doctor tried to help a dying friend by creating a serum that will reverse the effects of aging, the doctor is played by Boris Karloff. He is sentenced in one month’s time to be hung. In the court with him is his daughter, played by Evelyn Keyes, and her fiancé, played by Bruce Bennett.

He arrives at the prison and is brought to meet the warden, played by Ben Taggart, as well as a doctor, played by Edward Van Sloan. They believe in the work that he was doing and want to allow him to continue it in prison until his execution. Karloff believes that human cells are immortal and that they produce waste that is what causes us to age and ultimately kills us. He thinks he can prevent this from happening.

While they work, they are interrupted by a convict who does janitor work, played by Frank Richards. We learn that he is sneaky and that the guards aren’t a big fan of him. Karloff gets the guard to leave and asks Sloan what getting blood from a murderer who is to be hung the next day. Sloan agrees since he will conduct the autopsy.

They succeed in perfecting the serum; they just need someone to test it on. For his last request, he asks Taggart if he can work in the lab with Sloan to make sure he knows how to do everything before his execution. Taggart agrees. Since he will be hung, Karloff decides to try the serum on himself. Sloan monitors him until there’s a knock at the door. He is being taken out when there’s a call for Taggart. The governor has commuted his sentence to life in prison. Karloff then passes out.

Sloan is there when he wakes up and turns out that he was in a coma for a couple of days. He is starting to look younger as well. There have been tests done on him and there are noticeable changes physically. Now with more time, he begins to perfect what he has done. When he goes to inject Sloan, there is a change in him. He twists a handkerchief and uses it to strangle Sloan. Richards comes in, sees what happened to him and then is attacked by Karloff. They fight it out and Karloff ends up killing him.

In a turn of events, he is released from prison. Karloff has amnesia and doesn’t remember what happened. They believe that Sloan found Richards stealing, he killed Sloan and then Karloff fought with him, killing him. The blood from the murderer in his veins is what causes it.

Back at home his daughter is happy. Karloff is in his laboratory all day. He is hosting a dinner for three of his friends. There is a pianist played by Pedro de Cordoba. There is also Wright Kramer and Bertram Marburgh. Karloff is hard on Cordoba when he stops playing. Karloff offers them the same injection he had. They all refuse him.

Later that night, Karloff visits Corboda who changes him mind. Karloff goes to give it to him, but an uncontrollable rage comes over him again. He strangles Cordoba.

A detective, played by Don Beddoe, begins to investigate this case. The first place he goes is Karloff’s house. He knows there is something wrong and Keyes seems nervous. Will Karloff turn himself in or will he decide a way continue his work? Will he find a way to share the serum he has created or is it too complicated?

I have to say that this film is interesting. I thought that it starts out different. I also like that it is kind of like a Dr. Jekyll/Mr. Hyde type film. The acting is pretty good as well. I think the overall story is interesting, but it can be a little bit farfetched. I will admit there isn’t much to the story though. I think the idea of the serum and what it does is good, especially since they don’t go too far into detail about it.

I do have some issues with this film though. Like I don’t think it is realistic that they would release Karloff from prison, no matter what they think he did. I also was confused as to why every time they are dealing with the serum is when he loses it and starts to kill. This does change later to when he is stressed, but it is a little too inconsistent for my liking. He also doesn’t remember his first murder, or claims he doesn’t, but then he knows what he has done after that.

With that said, I would recommend this film if you are into horror films from the 1940s. The acting is pretty good and the story is light, but still pretty solid. It does have its issues and the story does have some holes. I will point out that this film is black and white, so keep that mind. This film isn’t the greatest and it isn’t scary, but it is an interesting Jekyll and Hyde type horror film. I would say give this a viewing if this sounds interesting.


My Rating: 5 out of 10