Boris Karloff stars as Dr. Leon Kravaal, a doctor that is not quite so mad as he is passionate though he could be mistaken for the former. Having been revived from the ice below his home, he now looks to pick up where he left off with his experiments and his research and yet, due to misconceptions and him working not completely within the law, he finds himself under scrutiny and about to be arrested. Things change though when he turns the tables on those who would persecute him and all of a sudden he now finds himself with new subjects to prove he was right all along.
The Man With Nine Lives might have been marketed as a horror film and yet, eighty-something years later, it seems more melodrama than anything else, much less a movie that will frighten anyone. That is not to say that there are not moments that are horrific, for any man that will experiment upon another with unproven drugs or what have one, especially when it is to prove a cure where there is none. Karloff does an effective job as he always does, having either played the mad doctor or across from one a number of times and thus knowing exactly what to put into the role. His zealousness and his absolute assuredness that he knows of what he speaks are almost enough to convince those who stand against him but it is also enough to sway them the opposite way as he looks and talks like a crazy person. Karloff always tends to exceed in these roles, the man being earnest in his performances, not to mention his very expressive facial features which make watching those films he stars in worth it for that alone.
Opposite him would be Roger Pryor as Dr. Tim Mason and Jo Ann Sayers as Judith, the two people who would discover him in the ice and end up thawing him out, at first only looking for his research in order that Mason adds it to his own but with Kravaal, what better than a living document so to speak. Additionally featuring Stanley Brown, Byron Foulger John Dilson and more, they would fill out the cast quite nicely and provide the necessary victims for Kravaal to prove his theory upon. The film would prove to be appropriately moody, a hallmark of the time which made scary movies seem more frightening than they actually were and it helped to set the stage for the events that were to follow.
Overall, The Man With Nine Lives was a smooth little shocker with Karloff doing what he does best, selling the role and selling the picture to the audience and proving why he was such a draw even in a small B film like this. It may not have any scares and it might be a tad overdramatic in places but it definitely entertains which is all that really matters.
3 out of 5