The Man They Could Not Hang

The Man They Could Not Hang is a 1939 American horror film directed by Nick Grinde and starring Boris Karloff as Dr. Henryk Savaard.[1][2] It is the first in a series of four similarly themed Columbia horror movies, all starring Karloff, informally known as the "Mad Doctor Cycle." It was followed by The Man with Nine Lives, Before I Hang and The Devil Commands. A fifth, The Boogie Man Will Get You, was a parody of the others.

The Man They Could Not Hang
Theatrical release poster
Directed byNick Grinde
(as Nick Grindé)
Screenplay byKarl Brown
Story byLeslie T. White
George Wallace Sayre
StarringBoris Karloff
CinematographyBenjamin H. Kline
(as Benjamin Kline)
Edited byWilliam A. Lyon
(as William Lyon)
Color processBlack and white
Columbia Pictures
Distributed byColumbia Pictures
Release date
  • August 17, 1939 (1939-08-17)
Running time
64 minutes
CountryUnited States


Dr. Savaard is a kindly gentleman experimenting with bringing the dead back to life. A young medical student offers his services to him, but before he can bring him back to life, Savaard is betrayed by his volunteer's girlfriend and is arrested, convicted, and sentenced to hang. He vows revenge on the judge and the jury before his hanging. His assistant claims his body and revives him by using his technique. The vengeful Savaard goes on a killing spree.


Production notesEdit

The fictional heart-and-lung-machine prop presented an idea that was strictly science fiction at the time, but later the central idea became reality as "open-heart surgery." Later renamed "on-pump" surgery owing to the development of microsurgery that does not require stopping the heart, "on pump" requires heart stoppage, then hook-up to the pump, then operating on the repairs, and then reconnecting and reviving the patient, exactly the basic theory presented by the film.[citation needed]


The film has been released on VHS by Sony Pictures. It is also included in the "Icons of Horror – Boris Karloff" DVD, released in 2006.

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ Stephen Jacobs, Boris Karloff: More Than a Monster, Tomahawk Press 2011 pp. 246-247
  2. ^ "The Man They Could Not Hang". FilmAffinity. Retrieved 11 January 2016.

External linksEdit