The Man Who Turned To Stone (1957) was directed by Leslie or Laszlo Kardos and produced by Sam Katzman. Screenplay by Raymond Marcus, Bernard Gordon.
The cast: Victor Jory, Ann Doran, Charlotte Austin, William Hudson, (Allison Hayes’ louse of a husband in 50Ft Woman)Paul Cavanagh, Jean Willes, and Frederick Ledebur.Incidentally, Hudson’s older brother John was also a louse of a husband in another gem The Screaming Skull(1958), although I recommend the MST3K version too, it’s a hoot!
This is a quirky, outre fun obscure horror film that I simply love. It combines the women in prison thingy with the mad scientist genre. It could even be considered a sci-fi film. It’s very hard to categorize some films because they do cross-pollinate with multiple themes, to me it’s all instant vintage bliss.
The idea of women in captivity isn’t new, and certainly putting them at risk within their confinement creates a very frantic atmosphere. We feel trapped along with them right? So add to that a really tall man in a black suit who looks like pigeons would love to alight upon his shoulders and you get The Man Who Turned To Stone. Naughty girls are put away from society, being experimented on for the purpose of extending the secret of eternal life.
I don’t want to keep harping on this but I do confess, I live with a sociologist and so a lot of her discourse osmosis into my thought processes. Actually viewing films and television, or even reading a good novel has been dramatically transformed because of my exposure to an Academic’s life.
I promise that not all my posts will become didactic or laden with conscientious opining and critical thought.
Sometimes a monster girl just wants to see the giant rubber hand smash through the roadside cafe and grab that cheating lecherous creep of a husband of Allison Hayes and not think of the feminist overtones of a 50 Foot woman enraged. But I digress.
So I just have to say this one thing and then back to the man who could sit in the park and collect pigeon shit all over himself.
The theme of using women in prison is sort of an extension of the confinement of women out in the world who are thought of as captive objects, an archaic tradition of ” a woman’s place is in the home” an institutionalized sort of domestic restraint for some.
I myself find it gratifying to be at home, watching horror and noir films. Playing with my cats and drinking coffee, then do a quick vacuuming and set the crock pot up for 6 hours, chili at 7 pm. Housewifery is nirvana for me.I am merely making an observation about the implications and the allure of the women in prison genre. Also watching a gratuitous girl fight has its fascinations. Guilty as charged!
In typical girls behind bars flicks there’s always the tough one who’s been around longer than mud, and the new fish who comes in and transforms the dynamic with her fresh innocence and naivete eventually helping the other inmates achieve some kind of revelation about life and themselves.
There’s also the stock evil “total institution” figure or figures (a sociological phrase, sorry!) that hovers over the women, exploiting, abusing, and being well, horrible authoritarians, tyrannical Fascist dirtbags on a power trip.
The women in LaSalle Detention Home for “Girls” have been inextricably dying, in a most mysterious way. These are young girls and yet they are suffering heart attacks? This has been going on for 2 years. Over the course of those 2 years, the inmates hear disturbing screams in the middle of the night.
The problem is that there aren’t any people who would care about “bad girls” in jail. They’ve lost all their rights, no one cares about such types, and so it’s a perfect environment to perform experiments on these women because they are a)helpless and b)anonymous. Hidden away from watchful responsible eyes.
And you see the people running the prison aren’t really evil agents of the law, they are actually really really old evil people who do esoteric science and are using the prison as a cover.
Charlotte Austin plays Carol Adams, the social worker who actually does give a damn about the girls. Carol has integrity and wants to help the girls reform and make sure that their living conditions are adequate.
Tracy, the iconic old-timer inmate of the group tells Carol about the suspicious string of “heart attacks”that have occurred over the past 2 years, Carol tries to investigate. This puts Carol in danger because she’s starting to interfere with Dr. Murdock’s (played by Victor Jory) experiments. He and his assistants try to deter Carol at every turn. So Murdock, Mrs.Ford(Ann Doran), and the other scientists start panicking.
No one knows that these people are actually over 200 years old. It’s delicious to see these evil practitioners of eternal life wearing eighteenth-century clothes. Way back in the 1700s they had uncovered a method of prolonging the life force or actually renewing life by transferring energy from one person to another. Something to do with electricity, blood transfusions, and large steel bathtubs.
Not unlike Vampirism, but by sucking the life force out of one body and infusing it into themselves. These scientists have been virtually using the girls to literally feed their years. When one of the girls is chosen to re-energize one of the scientists she dies, and they make it look like a heart attack. These scientists have figured out that the best giver of this life-nurturing force is women in their childbearing years. The jail is full of those.
Thus the reason why Murdock has set up their laboratory in prison for “bad girls” The one problem Murdock and his accomplices face is that if they go too long without sustaining themselves with a new source of energy, their skin becomes as hard as stone, and their hearts pounds so wildly that it’s actually audible, then they die!
This happens to a few of them, and the sound we hear when time runs out is really creepily cool. So is the make-up for the stone skin. Another problem they are faced with is the rocky ghoulish-looking Eric (Frederick Ledebur), a walking, mindless statue who suffered brain damage in their first experiments. It’s curious why they would keep him around for a couple of centuries. Perhaps he made a nice dining room ornament at the annual mad scientist cocktail party. It’s really Eric that gives The Man Who Turned To Stone is creepitude. The way he hulks around the house would give anyone the heebies, even a “bad girl”
Eric is also taking longer and longer to respond to the recharging treatments so they have to up the amount of female sacrifices from the jail pool.
Once one of the girls supposedly commits suicide, Dr Jesse Rogers (Hudson) a psychiatrist with the State Department of Corrections takes Carol’s pleas seriously and tries to help find out what’s been going on at the prison.
Eventually, Carol and Dr. Rogers uncover the secret. Dr Murdock and the others try to kill Rogers and Carol but they fail to do so. Eric is out of control and winds up kidnapping one of the inmates from her bed. After several mishaps, the scientists are vanquished of their nefarious and unholy rituals and their lab is burnt to the ground. And the girls can go back to confinement without Eric lurking about.