Review: The Man Who Finally Died / Director: Quentin Lawrence / Screenplay: Lewis Greifer, Louis Marks / Starring: Stanley Baker, Peter Cushing, Mai Zetterling, Eric Portman, Georgina Scott, Niall MacGinnis, Nigel Green / Released: Out now
If a British film opens with a horse-drawn hearse in a Bavarian town and features a few of corpse exhumations, then you won’t be surprised to see Peter Cushing and a couple of Night of the Demon (1957) veterans in the cast list. In fact, you’d be forgiven for assuming The Man Who Finally Died is a hoary old Brit-horror. But actually, it isn’t. Then again, maybe it is; there’s more horror here than our imagination can easily conjure.
TMWFD is based on a 1959 TV serial and tells the story of a German-born Brit (Baker) who gets a call to tell him his father’s just died. It’s all a bit rum because, as far as he was aware, his father had died 20 years earlier on the Eastern Front. It’s a taut mystery thriller with a top-notch cast that is very much a product of the Cold War. When the Second World War was a recent memory, many people had dark secrets and in the heart of Europe the horrors were only a whisper away. The movie features a surprising number of Gothic horror tropes; but then cemeteries feature as locations in so many post-war thrillers – hardly surprising when the dead were always so close. TMWFD’s tight direction and gloomy monochrome really capture the feeling that you just have to scratch the surface to find something far worse than you’d find in the supernatural. The plot’s intriguing and there are some fine performances from the illustrious cast with special mention to Eric Portman and Nigel Green as the cynical cops who’ve been maintaining law and order since the war.
Arguably this is a film that Starburst shouldn’t really be reviewing (although, to be fair, it’s got Peter Cushing and Niall MacGinnis in it) but if you like a story with twists and turns and want to visit another time and place, you really might want to give this a go. Networks and The British Film have done a fine job with the transfer here and it’s a pleasure to watch. You want horror? Just remember that the real world can be far worse than anything you might find in a haunted castle.
Extras: Image gallery / Original press PDF