Tuesday, April 22, 2008


MAN WITH TWO LIVES is a pointless Poverty Row programmer--say that five times fast--from 1942, courtesy of director Phil Rosen, a former cinematographer for Thomas Edison who cranked out quite a number of films, many of them B-grade pics like this one.

Edward Keane plays a scientist who's recently discovered a way to restore life to the dead, and is called to revive a car-crash fatality, the son of a colleague. As luck (and plot convenience) would have it, at the very same moment Keane brings the young man (Edward Norris) to life--exactly twelve midnight, natch--a violent criminal is put to death in the electric chair, causing the latter's soul to migrate into Norris's body. How or why the movie never bothers to explain.

What at first seems like your typical "playing God" scenario soon switches into DONOVAN'S BRAIN/BLACK FRIDAY territory, as Norris resumes his criminal career in his new body, taking over his old gang and reuniting with his former squeeze. However, unlike those more memorable films, MAN WITH TWO LIVES lacks the true sense of tragedy and loss of identity that made them work, unspooling like a standard gangster story as Norris's cronies inexplicably cook up a plot to send him to the police. And let's not forget the bullshit all-a-dream ending that's not only the worst kind of cop-out, isn't even consistent with the start of the picture.

Rosen uses some interesting lighting design, and the camera movies more often than the typical Monogram release, but a limp plot and bland cast (no names here, but look close for Ed Wood cohort Kenne Duncan) prevent it from generating much interest. Many enjoyable movies have slipped out of the Poverty Row ghetto, but this one was intended to round out double-bills and nothing more. Oh, how it shows.

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