Scary movie icon Boris Karloff pretty much plays it straight as mad scientist Leon Kravaal in B movie not quite horror flick The Man With Nine Lives. Roger Pryor, as good doctor Jim Mann, and Jo Ann Sanders, as nurse Judith Blair, both give competent performances in this ordinary and not particularly frightening movie.
Director Nick Grinde, who made more than his share of pulp movies over the years handles his basic story competently and does what he can with a very ordinary script. The basic premise is that doctor Jim Mann has found a way to cure fatal diseases by freezing people until the diseased cells die out –or something like that—and is then told to get lost by his employer. He goes on a quest to find out what happened to doctor Leon Kravaal, whose work has inspired his own.
So far so good. You only know this is going to be a horror movie when the doctor and the nurse go to Kravaal’s last known address and are told by the locals to stay away from the doctor’s island home conveniently and spookily called Crater Island. Mann and his nurse find the doctor frozen like a Popsicle, revive him with a good dose of warm blankets and coffee –seriously!!—and also revive the five men Kravaal had frozen along with him. Once revived, Kravaal continues his experiments, even freezing nurse Blair --whose job in this movie is to boil water, look admiringly at doctor Mann, make coffee, and scream a couple of times. And so on and so on.
What makes this movie frightening is the acceptance, at the end of the movie, of Kravaal’s work by the medical community even if he did kill a few folks. Filmed a few years before the very similar experiments made by Nazi doctors came to light, this acceptance is ominous.