Man They Could Not Hang


The Man They Could Not Hang

Nick Grinde
USA, 1939
64min, OF

© Viennale Bild: Cinémathèque Suisse

The Man They Could Not Hang

Nick Grinde
USA, 1939
, 64min, OF

Boris Karloff
Lorna Gray
Robert Wilcox
Roger Pryor
Don Beddoe
Ann Doran
Joe De Stefani
Karl Brown
George Wallace Sayre
Leslie T. White
Benjamin H. Kline

Columbia Pictures
35 mm

Written by Karl Brown, for years a cameraman for D. W. Griffith (he also tried directing, not without success, before settling on writing), and directed by the affable Nick Grinde (who once wrote, “The B director has to know more tricks than Harry Houdini did, and he has to pull them out of his hat right now—not after lunch”), this ingenious and entertaining film is the vehicle for one of Boris Karlo’s best performances. Everything that happens in the film is fun and interesting, and not a moment is wasted. The film ends with an unanswered question hanging in the air; this ending comes, unfortunately, too soon (interrupting Karlo’s plan of serial revenge, which has the full support of every viewer of the film), but in that untimeliness a bleak and awful judgment about the finality of existence is expressed in an ideally dry and succinct way. Like all B-movies, THE MAN THEY COULD NOT HANG is a commentary on its own production. The newspaper editor instructs his reporter — “Make it weird, make it dramatic, and make it snappy!” — in words Grinde and Brown might have heard in a meeting with the head of their unit. (Chris Fujiwara)