Tuesday, August 9, 2016

A Dead Man's Brain!

Finally got to see Donovan's Brain, a movie based on a very successful novel by Curt Siodmak. I've seen some imitators, but I've somehow missed the original brain movie. Here's the plot.

A research scientist and part time surgeon named Cory (Lew Ayres) gets his hands on the brain of a notoriously rich and independent millionaire named  Donovan thanks to an airplane crash and it seems prudent to Cory to just use that brain to further his own research which up to then had been using mere monkey brains. His drunken buddy and fellow doctor Schratt (Gene Evans) helps him as does his dutiful wife Janice (Nancy Davis - yes that Nancy Davis due to become Nancy Reagan). They keep the brain alive through science but are unprepared when Donovan's Brain begins to exert control on them all especially Cory and starts to pursue his own agenda. He proves to be a dangerous sort and it all gets terribly dangerous before we get a painfully forced happy ending.

The movie is cleverly done and makes much of what appears to be a relatively small budget. The morality of the doctor Cory is pretty fiendish overall and he's a hard guy to root for, even though I got the sense we were supposed to. His drunken friend is more likeable by far and even his wife seems a better sort, though both of them seem to regard him as a paragon.

It's a movie which suffers a lot from little to do. The Brain itself cannot move (aside from jiggling in a tank of fluids) and never does it speak, save from the mouth of Cory. We learn what a lout Donovan was and sort of still is, and it seemed logical to me that he might win the day. It might've been a stronger movie if he had since thematically it made more sense, but given the rules of these sci-fi epics it probably couldn't be done.

Glad I saw it. I recommend you do too.

The story has been adapted to film two other times, in 1944 as The Lady and the Monster and in 1962 as simply The Brain. It would be fun to catch these and compare. 

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