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Friday, 3 August 2007

The Man Who Turned to Stone (1957) Leslie Kardos

Ten names on the main cast page and Friedrich von Ledebur is the only one I recognise. That can't be good. Then again, we open in the La Salle Detention Home for Girls full of women who really can't count as girls, even by Hollywood standards. That must be good, as of course this is really a women's prison under a more friendly name. What's even better is that someone's screaming outside and every time someone screams someone turns up dead in the morning. One of the admin assistants notices this and gets into immediate trouble by raising the idea to the people in charge.

Naturally anyone with a background in low budget horror scifi movies knows that this means that there are mad doctors behind the scenes using their literally captive audience to provide the life force to keep scary old Friedrich alive. After being so memorable as Queequeg in Moby Dick, he immediately sank into Voodoo Island and continued the decline here, as Eric, who looks like a hollowed out zombie until he can steal that life force, when he appears merely as a less hollowed out zombie. He's Dr Murdock's personal assistant, Murdock being the leader of this group of immortality seekers.

The biggest question I had is the most surprising one I could think of asking. Given that three score years and ten shouldn't be enough for anyone, it seems strange to wonder why these characters should seek immortality but they don't do anything. Von Ledebur may have a highly extended lifespan but he can't even speak let alone actually do anything substantial. He just stands there like a statue for most of the film, which is of course precisely what happens to any of them if they don't get their life force, hence the title. The only other activity he gets is to carry new victims around.

The story is full of awesomely bad science and completely inane plot developments, but it has a little charm to it. Murdock and Cooper and others keep letting things slip about what they did over a century ago and nobody notices until the good guy gets brought in to notice everything. He's Dr Jess Rogers, played by William Hudson, who's by far the best thing about this film, regardless of how bad his dialogue is and how many plotholes he has to studiously ignore.

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