Thursday, 2009 October 22, 14:28 — cinema, futures

getting away with progress

In Before I Hang, Boris Karloff played Doctor John Garth, a scientist seeking a serum to “cure old age”. He tries a version of the serum on himself, and color returns to his hair — but he used a multiple murderer’s blood to make the serum, and finds himself compelled to kill.

Although several characters doubt that a youth drug is possible, this movie is exceptional in giving no hint that one ought not to try it; no stern rebuke, even by an unsympathetic character, against ‘playing God’ or ‘meddling with Nature’. (Contrast Renaissance.) The final scene is about resolve to continue the effort, and hope of eventual success.

Perhaps in mitigation of this hubris, the benefits of such a drug are expressed in modest terms like “reversing, even for a few years, the afflictions of old age” — nothing about immortality or permanent youth, though one would have to be stupid to miss that implication.

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