Cold as Ice, Willing to Sacrifice

Boris Karloff stars as another doctor accosted by a system unable to understand his medical progress, one of – at least – a dozen of these roles for the English actor. Man with Nine Lives ranks among his best though, Karloff portraying an utterly convincing and even unfortunate drift toward insanity that until the last act, rarely loses its empathy.

Man with Nine Lives benefits too from location, set almost entirely in an underground bunker, presenting this small cast as helplessly confined and claustrophobic. Karloff, as the seemingly gentle-if-misunderstood Dr. Leon Kravaal, traps these people as if rodents. There he experiments with a cryogenic freezing treatment that clearly works, yet no one believes.

Man with Nine Lives takes its time to properly build the scenario

That’s Man with Nine Lives’ best trick, keeping Kravaal an anti-hero, desperate to save lives by using unwilling participants who violently lash out despite his crude calming efforts. The script presents an eerie circumstance by showing immediately Kravaal is right in his experiments early on, leaving the rest a frustrating (for him and his victims) social experiment until the obsession takes over.

Karloff being masterfully calm, understanding, and reasoned in his performance avoids the pitfalls common to these cheap, double bill-filler thriller features. Even at a brisk 74-minutes, Man with Nine Lives takes its time to properly build the scenario; Karloff doesn’t appear until 25-minutes in, unusual patience for this b-tier genre.

The final act ramps up the panic and intensity, closing on an absolutely ethical quagmire that ends on awkward smiles. Kravaal saved the world, but his achievement will forever be soured by his methods. A brief epilogue with a “man on the street” perspective or spinning newspaper headlines discussing the moral discrepancy seems like a fascinating idea, but Man with Nine Lives is far too simple for that. It’s up to audiences to discuss, and taking the time to do so elevates this standard Karloff setup to something more filling.


Licensed from Sony, Mill Creek does a decent job compressing Man with Nine Lives, sharing a disc with Before I Hang. While visibly artifacting, grain still retains elements of the film stock; it’s not a complete loss, and one of the better efforts from Mill Creek.

The master looks recent, likely a 2K source. It’s sharp and reasonably detailed. Texture lacks the same refinement as the best vintage presentations, but Man with Nine Lives delivers in a basic way. Plus, the clean print lacks damage (with a few frames acting as exceptions), an impressive restoration.

Gray scale lacks refinement, the only major letdown on an otherwise excellent presentation. Contrast runs hot, lacking precision in the lightest parts of the screen, even clipping a bit. Black levels fare better, dense and pure at their deepest parts.

Note around 1:04:00, the image dips into sub-HD quality. That’s likely from a different print, and the only remaining film elements. Aliasing and flicker increase to a drastic level for the final act.


Better than expected considering Man with Nine Lives came out in 1940, the DTS-HD mono track captures excellent fidelity in the dialog. The stock score wobbles at the top-end, but generally holds firm. Dated tech at the source limits the potential range.



Full disclosure: This UHD was provided by the label for review. This has not materially affected DoBlu’s editorial process. For information on how we handle all review material, please visit DoBlu’s about us page.

The Man with Nine Lives
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Routine for Columbia’s Boris Karloff thrillers, Man with Nine Lives still produces thrills through Karloff’s performance.

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