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A view on Blu-ray by Gary W. Tooze

The Man Who Could Cheat Death [Blu-ray]

 

(Terence Fisher, 1959)

 

 

Review by Gary Tooze

 

Production:

Theatrical: Paramount Pictures - Hammer

Video: Legend Films / Eureka (UK) / Kino Lorber

 

Disc:

Region: FREE! / Region 'B' / Region 'A' (as verified by the Oppo Blu-ray player)

Runtime: 1:22:50.006 / 1:22:50.799 / 1:22:51.883

Disc Size: 13,208,969,956 bytes / 32,393,399,800 bytes  / 26,897,922,326 bytes

Feature Size: 13,158,598,656 bytes / 23,339,933,568 bytes  / 18,272,114,688 bytes

Video Bitrate: 19.99 Mbps / 36.01 Mbps  / 25.94 Mbps

Chapters: 18 / 18  / 8

Case: Standard Blu-ray case / Transparent Blu-ray case / Standard Blu-ray Case

Release date: May 3rd, 2011 / September 21st, 2015  / March 14th, 2017

 

Video (all three):

Aspect ratio: 1.66:1

Resolution: 1080p / 23.976 fps

Video codec: MPEG-4 AVC Video

 

Audio:

Dolby Digital Audio English 192 kbps 2.0 / 48 kHz / 192 kbps / DN -4dB (both)

LPCM Audio English 2304 kbps 2.0 / 48 kHz / 2304 kbps / 24-bit  

DTS-HD Master Audio English 1555 kbps 2.0 / 48 kHz / 1555 kbps / 16-bit (DTS Core: 2.0 / 48 kHz / 1509 kbps / 16-bit)
Commentary:

Dolby Digital Audio English 256 kbps 2.0 / 48 kHz / 256 kbps

 

Subtitles:

None

English (SDH), none

English, none

 

Extras:

None

 

Exclusive new video interviews with critic and novelist Kim Newman (17:09) and author and historian Jonathan Rigby (16:52)
Full colour booklet featuring new writing by author Marcus Hearn, author of The Hammer Story: The Authorised History of Hammer Films, and archival imagery

DVD of the feature

 

Audio Commentary by Film Historian Troy Howarth
Interview with critic and novelist Kim Newman (17:09)
Interview with author and historian Jonathan Rigby (16:52)

The Skull - Trailers From Hell with Joe Dante (2:36)
Trailers - Tales of Terror (2:21), The Oblong Box (1:56), Madhouse (1:48), Twice Told Tales (2:43) and The Crimson Cult (2:03)

 

Bitrates:

1) Legend Films - Region FREE - Blu-ray  TOP

2) Eureka - Region 'B' - Blu-ray MIDDLE

3) Kino - Region 'A' - Blu-ray BOTTOM

 

 

Description: This two-disc collection is filled with suspense and terror as it features classic, bonechilling tales from two of the biggest horror powerhouse producers: Hammer Studios and Amicus Productions.

 

The Man Who Could Cheat Death features a horror filled tale starring Anton Diffring as Dr. Georges Bonnet, a man with a hideous obsession to live forever all he needs are the glands of some very unwilling donors. Also starring Christopher Lee and the beautiful horror legend Hazel Court, this film is a suspense-filled ride for all who enjoy classic horror cinema.

***

His terrifying secret, his hideous obsession made him... The Man Who Could Cheat Death

Director Terence Fisher (The Curse of Frankenstein, Dracula, The Hound of the Baskervilles) transformed the fate of Hammer Pictures with his vibrant and explicit series of gothic horror films, which would become the studio's signature style for nearly two decades. Fisher continued his winning streak for the studio with this tale of scientific debauchery, which remains one of Hammer Films finest achievements.

Doctor and amateur sculptor Georges Bonnet (Anton Diffring Circus of Horrors, Fahrenheit 451) has discovered a murderous method of maintaining his youth, once every ten years he murders a young woman and removes her parathyroid glands to replace his own. But after 104 years, he's run into some problems. His collaborator is now too old to perform the surgical procedure, and a detective is on his case. In desperation Bonnet blackmails another surgeon (Christopher Lee) into performing the procedure by threatening the life of Janine Dubois (Hazel Court), a woman who both men desire.

With cinematography by Jack Asher (whose Bava-esque use of colours lend the film an almost dreamlike quality) and set-design by Bernard Robinson who could miraculously produce lavish and expensive looking sets on a tight budget, Eureka Entertainment is proud to present The Man Who Could Cheat Death available in the UK for the first time on Blu-ray in a special dual-format edition.

 

 

The Film:

Dr. Georges Bonnet has figured out a way to live forever. All he needs are the glands of some very unwilling donors! Anton Diffring stars as the mad doctor in this chilling Hammer Horror classic. As he struggles against the inevitable icy grip of death, the doctor begins a descent into madness that threatens to destroy the laws of nature and the lives of those he lusts after. It's up to horror legend Christopher Lee to stop his unholy quest before it takes a final deadly turn!

Image :    NOTE: The below Blu-ray captures were taken directly from the Blu-ray disc.

Legend Films (notable for their colorization of films-to-DVD like The House on Haunted Hill, The Most Dangerous Game, Corman's The Little Shop of Horrors and even Pasolini's The Gosepl According to St. Matthew) have a new digital gimmick - dual-release bare-bones packages on Blu-ray. We have this U.K. Horror pairing (The Man Who Could Cheat Death / The Skull!) plus they have done Houdini + Those Daring Young Men in Their Jaunty Jalopies and not yet reviewed; Student Bodies +Jekyll & Hyde Together Again.  I still think it's a pretty good idea since it is doubtful that many of these films would ever see the HD light of day via Paramount. So, again, this is 2 separate single-layered discs (maybe cheaper that way?) and both seem adeptly transferred with bitrates far in excess of SD.  They are both 1080P and The Man Who Could Cheat Death at 1.66: 1 aspect ratio tends to look weaker but still very watchable with some bright colors. I think it is the more entertaining film. The Skulls is tighter with better detail and some subtle instances of depth. Contrast on both is elevated thank to the HD transfer. There are a few speckles in The Man Who Could Cheat Death but nothing untoward and any weaknesses are the fault of the source as no restoration has been implemented for either film. These Blu-rays both gave me a decent and pleasurable viewing experience - and predictably, not in the league of most modern HD transfer appearances but in definite advance of SD.

 

Advantage to the Eureka, UK, Blu-ray transfer. It's approaching double the bitrate and grain is significantly supported. In fact, it' better, richer colors, superior contrast, more detail and every other visual front. No competition - the Eureka wins, hands down.

 

Brighter than the Eureka and not exporting the grain as effectively, but it's still superior to the Legend Blu-ray release. All three are 1080P and I'd place the Kino squarely between them for visual quality. Still very acceptable in the original 1.66:1 aspect ratio.

 

CLICK EACH BLU-RAY CAPTURE TO SEE ALL IMAGES IN FULL 1920X1080 RESOLUTION

 

1) Eureka - Region 'B' - Blu-ray TOP

2) Kino - Region 'A' - Blu-ray BOTTOM

 

 

1) Legend Films - Region FREE - Blu-ray  TOP

2) Eureka - Region 'B' - Blu-ray MIDDLE

3) Kino - Region 'A' - Blu-ray BOTTOM

 

 

1) Legend Films - Region FREE - Blu-ray  TOP

2) Eureka - Region 'B' - Blu-ray MIDDLE

3) Kino - Region 'A' - Blu-ray BOTTOM

 

 

1) Legend Films - Region FREE - Blu-ray  TOP

2) Eureka - Region 'B' - Blu-ray MIDDLE

3) Kino - Region 'A' - Blu-ray BOTTOM

 

 

1) Legend Films - Region FREE - Blu-ray  TOP

2) Eureka - Region 'B' - Blu-ray BOTTOM

 

 

1) Legend Films - Region FREE - Blu-ray  TOP

2) Eureka - Region 'B' - Blu-ray BOTTOM

 

 

1) Legend Films - Region FREE - Blu-ray  TOP

2) Eureka - Region 'B' - Blu-ray BOTTOM

 

 

1) Legend Films - Region FREE - Blu-ray  TOP

2) Eureka - Region 'B' - Blu-ray BOTTOM

 

 

More Eureka - Region 'B' - Blu-ray

 

 

Audio :

I'd still like to have uncompressed audio but we get the standard Dolby on both and there are some inconsistencies. Legend are certainly not taking advantage of one of the format's greatest strengths. Perhaps, again, though this is a factor of cost. There are no subtitles offered and my Oppo has identified it as being a region FREE disc playable on Blu-ray machines worldwide.

 

The audio also goes to Eureka with a linear PCM 2.0 channel mono at 2304 kbps in 24-bit. It sounds cleaner and tighter with more notable depth in the effects.  Richard Rodney Bennett's (Billy Liar, Equus) score certainly benefits from the lossless. Eureka include optional English (SDH) subtitles and the Blu-ray disc is region 'B'-locked.

 

Kino use a DTS-HD Master 2.0 channel at 1555 kbps (16-bit) - technically inferior to the Eureka - but few ears will make issue. Sounds solid enough in the lossless and there are optional English subtitles (slightly smaller font) and the Blu-ray disc is region 'A' locked.        

 

 

Extras :

None. But the Legend disc is shared with The Skull.

 

Eureka add some new, self-produced, supplements including an excellent new 17-minute video interview with critic and novelist Kim Newman and a second, similar length of time, with author and historian Jonathan Rigby. The package contains a full color, liner notes, booklet featuring new writing by author Marcus Hearn, author of The Hammer Story: The Authorised History of Hammer Films, and archival imagery and, being Dual-format, has a secone disc DVD of the feature with the extras.

 

Kino advance here by including a rewarding audio commentary by film historian Troy Howarth providing a multitude of details on the production. There are the same two interviews; with critic and novelist Kim Newman and a second with author and historian Jonathan Rigby as found on the Eureka. There is also a Trailers From Hell piece with Joe Dante on The Skull. There are trailers for Tales of Terror, The Oblong Box, Madhouse, Twice Told Tales and The Crimson Cult.

 

Legend Films - Region FREE - Blu-ray

 

 

Eureka - Region 'B' - Blu-ray

 

 

Kino - Region 'A' - Blu-ray

 

 

BOTTOM LINE:
The Man Who Could Cheat Death is classic Hammer Studios - meaning wonderful! Penned by writer Barré Lyndon - based on his own play "The Man in Half Moon Street". He was also notable for screenplays for The War of the Worlds, The Lodger, Hangover Square and the noirish The House on 92nd Street and Man in the Attic.  I slipped easily into the Hammer mood and had a fabulous viewing. I decoded to pull out, my favorite, the Hammer Horror Series DVD set and am watching it as I write this. I believe this is the third Hammer entry to reach 1080P - along with Paranoiac and Vampire Circus.

 

Obviously this isn't the height of the format - but we get two films on Blu-ray for a very reasonable price. I endorse. I'm going to check out more and hope Legend Films continues with this trend especially more Hammer films to 1080P. I'm fairly sure we aren't likely to see either The Man Who Could Cheat Death or The Skull looking any better than this... and at this price it's an easy purchase.

 

It's quite evident that the Eureka is the better package (including better cover) - in every respect and most notable attribute of the Legend Films is the price. I can appreciate the Hammer film even more in the respectable UK transfer and bone-fide extras included by Eureka. It is definitely the way to go. Very strongly recommended!

 

We love having choices and I rate the Troy Howarth commentary highly and I think it would be the Blu-ray that I would keep amongst the three - for that inclusion. Super Hammer horror from the late 50's... and easy purchase, imo.  

Gary Tooze

May 11th, 2011

September 9th, 2015

March 3rd, 2017

About the Reviewer: Hello, fellow Beavers! I have been interested in film since I viewed a Chaplin festival on PBS when I was around 9 years old. I credit DVD with expanding my horizons to fill an almost ravenous desire to seek out new film experiences. I currently own approximately 9500 DVDs and have reviewed over 3500 myself. I appreciate my discussion Listserv for furthering my film education and inspiring me to continue running DVDBeaver. Plus a healthy thanks to those who donate and use our Amazon links.

Although I never wanted to become one of those guys who focused 'too much' on image and sound quality - I find HD is swiftly pushing me in that direction.

Gary's Home Theatre:

60-Inch Class (59.58” Diagonal) 1080p Pioneer KURO Plasma Flat Panel HDTV PDP6020-FD

Oppo Digital BDP-83 Universal Region FREE Blu-ray/SACD Player
Momitsu - BDP-899 Region FREE Blu-ray player
Marantz SA8001 Super Audio CD Player
Marantz SR7002 THX Select2 Surround Receiver
Tannoy DC6-T (fronts) + Energy (centre, rear, subwoofer) speakers (5.1)

APC AV 1.5 kVA H Type Power Conditioner 120V

Gary W. Tooze

 

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