Movies and Film

There Is Always a Cost – The Man Who Turned to Stone (1957)

If you like women in prison films then you will most likely be disappointed in this one as it is not like those you classically associate with the genre.  Yes, there are women and yes, they are in a prison of sorts, but this is no Caged Heat, Female Convict, Ilsa or Women in Cages.  While those movies are a type of exploitation film, this film is far removed from that being a science-fiction and horror hybrid.  It could have gone the WiP route, but at this time film studios were not all that keen to feature nudity, violence and everything else that went into making the women in prison films that gained in popularity later on.  This film fits right into the classic mold that studios had been doing for years with pictures of this sort, simply using good storytelling, a moody atmosphere and good actors to get it across.  Even though modernity will always come calling, why fix something if it is not broken?

The Man Who Turned to Stone, released by Columbia Pictures in 1957, played with themes of life and death like many a horror or science-fiction picture of the time did.  Eternal life always provides great fodder for motion pictures and the writers and directors who made them as there are so many ways and combinations to deal with the subject.  Dracula, The Picture of Dorian Gray, Highlander, Brigadoon and many more over the years, have all featured the subject and have done so imaginatively and in different ways each time.  And while they always play with the subject of living forever, they also find a way to defeat that ideal so that it is never fully realized.  In Dracula, a simple stake through the heart will do while in Highlander it is beheading that is the cure-all.  Always trust in man to find the weakness of something, even on film.

In this film, a group of doctors who are over 200 years old have learned how to extend their lives but it comes at a cost.  To do so, they must drain the vitality of others and transfer it into themselves.  Failure to do so after a certain period of time finds them slowly petrifying – turning to stone and thus the name of the film.  Taking place at a reform school, women are becoming suspicious as many of them are dying from heart attacks and the like and bringing those suspicions to Carol Adams, played by Charlotte Austin.  She brings this concern to her friend Dr. Jess Rogers portrayed by William Hudson and they strike up an investigation.  As events come to the fore, and Jess and Carol get closer to the truth, things come to a head between our heroes and the doctors.


Friedrich von Ledebur as Eric

This was a fun little film on every level even though it was an obviously low budget picture, it did not hamper it in any way whatsoever.  Relying on script and acting more than effects, the film turned out fairly strong because of that.  Hudson and Austin do quite well in their roles and make a good onscreen pair.  Sure, they are no Tracy and Hepburn, but they do well enough.  Friedrich von Ledebur who plays Eric, the big, lumbering and silent oaf who helps the doctors out procuring their victims is a little creepy at times, but you cannot help but think if he combed his hair and cracked a smile, he would be a pretty sweet fellow.  The rest of the cast did a good job as well including Victor Varconi, George Lynn, Ann Doran, Victor Jory and Jean Willes.  While they performed well, Paul Cavanagh as Cooper was memorable as the man who spilled the beans to Rogers, even with the little screen time he had.

The movie required little in the way of cinematography or art direction as everything in the film was pretty basic, but Benjamin H. Kline and Paul Palmentola respectively, did a good job giving the film the feel it needed under Leslie Kardos’ direction.  It was definitely not the scariest or the most exciting, nor was the science ever really explained, and in a film like this it does not need to be, but for a B picture, it was entertaining and a nice little chiller that could easily be watched more than once.

4 out of 5

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