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Before I Hang

Entry updated 27 November 2018. Tagged: Film.

Film (1940). Columbia Pictures Corporation. Produced by Wallace MacDonald (uncredited). Directed by Nick Grinde. Written by Robert D Andrews from an original story by Andrews and Karl Brown. Cast includes Boris Karloff, Evelyn Keyes and Edward Van Sloan. 62 minutes. Black and white.

Dr John Garth (Karloff) is working to reverse the ageing process (see Rejuvenation), His research is interrupted by his conviction of murder after assisting the death of an elderly, terminally ill friend whose pain had become unbearable. Sentenced to hang, Garth is allowed to continue his work in prison while awaiting execution. Using blood from an executed murderer, he and colleague Dr Ralph Howard (Van Sloan) produce a serum which Garth tests on himself. It is partially successful, but the killer's blood imparts homicidal urges to Garth, who strangles both Howard and a prisoner who happens by the laboratory. The authorities mistaken assume that Garth tried to save Howard from the deceased prisoner: his sentence is commuted and he is soon released. Attempting to perfect the rejuvenation serum, he cannot control his murderous impulses. After several more deaths, his daughter Martha (Keyes) become suspicious, and also nearly dies at his hands. Ultimately, with police in pursuit, Garth returns to the prison and deliberately manoeuvres a guard into shooting him dead.

Before I Hang is perhaps the weakest of the several Columbia Mad Scientist films starring Karloff at around this time; nevertheless his performance comes close to rescuing this essentially Gothic-Horror production. [GSt]


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