The rediscovery of this Karloff classic (released in the U.S. as THE MAN WHO LIVED AGAIN) is well timed after the stunning debut last year of THE GHOUL. For years, Karloff's performance in "mad doctor" films were always evaluated on the strength and weakness of the Columbia films from 1939's THE MAN THEY COULD NOT HANG till the mid 40s. However it is with this film and to a lesser degree JUGGERNAUT (1936) that one can see a different more subversive Karloff at work. In THE MAN WHO CHANGED HIS MIND we have a chain smoking obsessive who not only wants to push the envelope with science but seduce his beautiful lab assistant even if he must enter another man's body to win her affections!
THE MAN WHO CHANGED HIS MIND was made in the UK in 1936 at the height of Karloff's fame as the number one horror star in the world. Anna Lee who at the age of 90 still lives in London, (after years acting on a soap opera in LA) remembers Karloff fondly in an interview with me recorded in the early 1980s. "Boris was so happy to be filming in his native land after being worked to death over at Universal. His brothers were all aware of his celebrity and I believe more than one came on set to visit Boris during the filming as the press was having a field day since all the brothers favored Karloff in looks! Anyone of them would have made a first rate Frankenstein. Boris was a joy to work with and a total pro that knew his business and was grateful to be working during that depression era. We would have many a laugh remembering this during our work on BEDLAM (1946) a few years later."
This production was favored with a first-rate script courtesy of John L. Balderstone who wrote so many classic Universal horrors and Sidney Gillet who became world famous for Hitchcock's THE LADY VANISHES and JAMAICA INN. The direction by Robert Stevenson then married to co-star Anna Lee would go on to film JANE EYRE starring Orson Welles and finish his career on the Disney backlot helming one project after another for "Uncle Walt."
The film benefits greatly from the performances of the supporting cast, especially Donald Calthrop as the crippled Clayton who has all the best lines later on in the film. Frank Cellier is appropriately pompous as Lord Haslewood. John Loder makes a serviceable young lead that has a bit of fun being Karloff at the films conclusion.
The make-up was done by an up and coming young artist named Roy Ashton who years later remembered "Dear Boris" as a very kind and gentle soul whose autographed photo remained in a place of honor at the Hammer studio's make-up room during Ashton's reign as master monster maker. It is great to watch Karloff's performance as Dr. Laurience given his joy at being home again successfully and starring in a well-mounted production as this one certainly was. He is given a very driven "Mad Doctor" to play here and easily outshines the Columbia films, as he is still agile enough to lust after the girl rather than being cast as her father as he would be over at Columbia. Even the mad lab material is up to the Universal days with enough switches and electrodes to follow what THE DEVIL COMMANDS (1941) and we all know that Karloff obeys.
The print is the best I have ever seen for this title as my old Sinister Cinema tape was so full of dropout and scratches that one could barely follow the action. Now the film is restored to how it must have looked to audiences in the 30s, and the mono audio is as clear as can be. Now that both THE GHOUL and this film are back from the dead we can really appreciate what a great Horror Star Karloff was to his generation and especially in his homeland. (David Del Valle)
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