CC: Donovan’s Brain (1942)(1944)(1953)(1962)(1970)

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Friday, September 12, 2014

CC: Donovan’s Brain (1942)(1944)(1953)(1962)(1970)

Curt Siodmak (August 10, 1902 – 2 September 2000) was a novelist and screenwriter.  He made a name for himself in Hollywood with horror and science fiction films, most notably The Wolf Man and Donovan's Brain (the latter adapted from his novel of the same name).  He was the brother of noir director Robert Siodmak (Son of Dracula (1943), The Spiral Staircase (1945), Custer of the West (1967)).

Siodmak was born Kurt Siodmak in Dresden, Germany, the son of Rosa Philippine and Ignatz Siodmak.  His parents were both from Ashkenazi Jewish families in Leipzig.  Siodmak acquired a degree in mathematics before beginning to write novels.  He invested early royalties earned by his first books in the movie Menschen am Sonntag (1929) a documentary-style chronicle of the lives of four Berliners on a Sunday based on their own lives.  Siodmak was the nephew of noted film producer Seymour Nebenzahl, who funded Menschen am Sonntag with funds borrowed from his father, Heinrich Nebenzahl.

Siodmak decided to emigrate after hearing an anti-Semitic tirade by the Nazi propaganda minister Joseph Goebbels, and departed for England where he made a living as a screenwriter before moving to the United States in 1937.  His big break came with the screenplay for The Wolf Man (1941), starring Lon Chaney, Jr., which established this fictional creature as the most popular movie monster after Dracula and Frankenstein's monster.  In the film, Siodmak created several werewolf "legends": being marked by a pentagram; being practically immortal apart from being struck/shot by silver implements/bullets; and the famous verse:

Even a man who is pure in heart,
And says his prayers by night
May become a Wolf when the Wolfsbane blooms
And the autumn Moon is bright

(the last line was changed in the sequels to "And the Moon is full and bright").

Siodmak's science-fiction novel Donovan's Brain (1942) was a bestseller that was translated into many languages and was adapted for the cinema several times, beginning in 1943 with The Lady and the Monster, then 1953's Donovan's Brain and 1962's The Brain.  Other notable films he wrote include Earth vs. the Flying Saucers, I Walked With a Zombie and The Beast With Five Fingers.  In the plots of his work, Siodmak utilized the latest scientific findings combining those with pseudo-scientific motifs like the Jekyll and Hyde complex1, the Nazi trauma and the East-West dichotomy2.

Donovan's Brain is a 1942 science fiction novel by Curt Siodmak.  The novel became an instant classic and was adapted for the big screen three times.  Since then the book has become something of a cult classic, with fans including Stephen King, who discussed the novel in his 1981 book Danse Macabre.  Siodmak later wrote a sequel in 1968, titled, Hauser's Memory.

The novel is written in the form of diary entries by Dr. Patrick Cory, a middle-aged physician whose experiments at keeping a brain alive are subsidized by Cory's wealthy wife.  Under investigation for tax evasion and criminal financial activities, millionaire megalomaniac W.H. Donovan crashes his private plane in the desert near the home of Dr. Cory.  The physician is unable to save Donovan's life, but removes his brain on the chance that it might survive, placing the gray matter in an electrically charged, oxygenated saline solution within a glass tank.  The brainwaves indicate that thought—and life—continue.  Cory makes several futile attempts to communicate with it.  Finally, one night Cory receives unconscious commands, jotting down a list of names in a handwriting not his own—it is Donovan's.  Cory successfully attempts telepathic contact with Donovan's brain, much to the concern of Cory's occasional assistant, Dr. Schratt, an elderly alcoholic.

Gradually, the malignant intelligence takes over Cory's personality, leaving him in an amnesiac fugue state when he awakes.  The brain uses Cory to do his bidding, signing checks in Donovan's name, and continuing the magnate's illicit financial schemes.  Cory becomes increasingly like the paranoid Donovan himself, his physique and manner morphing into the limping image of the departed criminal.  Donovan's bidding culminates in an attempt to have Cory kill a young girl who stands in the way of his plans.  Realizing he will soon have no control over his own body and mind, Cory devises a plan to destroy the brain during its quiescent (a state of inactivity or dormancy) period.  Cory resists the brain's hypnotic power by repeating the rhyme "He thrusts his fists against the posts and still insists he sees the ghosts."  With Dr. Schratt's help, he destroys the housing tank with an ax and leaves the brain of Donovan to die, thus ending his reign of madness.

The Lady and the Monster (1944)

  • Genre: Horror – Sci-Fi – Thriller
  • Directed: George Sherman
  • Produced: George Sherman
  • Written:
    • Curt Siodmak (Novel "Donovan's Brain") 
    • Dane Lussier 
    • Frederick Kohner
  • Starring: Vera Ralston, Richard Arlen, Erich von Stroheim, Helen Vinson, Mary Nash, Sidney Blackmer, Janet Martin, William Henry, Charles Cane, Juanita Quigley, Josephine Dillon
  • Music:
    • Walter Scharf 
    • Marlin Skiles
  • Cinematography: John Alton
  • Editing: Arthur Roberts
  • Studio: Republic Pictures
  • Distributed:
    • Republic Pictures  
    • British Lion Film Corporation  
    • Tropical Films de Cuba  
    • Cinematografico de Pacifico
  • Rated: NR
  • Release Date: 17 April 1944 (USA)
  • Running Time: 86 minutes
  • Country: USA
  • Language: English

Professor Franz Mueller is the proud owner of his self-built advanced scientific laboratory set in an old castle in the middle of the dry Arizona desert.  Mueller specializes in research on the human brain and is quite obsessed and conducts experiments on brain tissue, believing that a human brain can be maintained even after a man's death.  He also believes that the knowledge contained in a deceased person's brain can be transferred to another person.

Mueller is assisted in his attempts to prove his theory by another scientist, Patrick Cory, and his young Czechoslovakian-American ward, Janice Farrell.  Mueller is painfully aware of the fact that his assistants Cory and Janice are attracted to each other, but since Mueller himself is in love with Janice he does everything in his power, including abusing his powers as a boss to assign Cory to additional late night work and use the fact that the young man is far too devoted to his work, to keep the two love-birds apart and improve his own chances.  When a plane crashes in the desert close to the laboratory one night, Mueller is asked by the rangers investigating the crash cause to take care of the only surviving man until a physician arrives.  The man dies before the doctor gets there and is declared dead.  The physician, Dr. Martin, reassures Mueller that someone will come to take care of the body the next day, but while waiting for that person, Mueller decides to test his theory about brain maintenance.  With the help of his instruments Mueller is able to decide that the man's brain is still alive enough to use.  Before the body is reclaimed he and Cory removes the brain.  They are also able to determine, from searching through the dead man's clothes, that the body belongs to an infamous investment banker named William H. Donovan.

In the morning the wife of the late banker, Mrs. Chloe Donovan, arrives with the family lawyer, Eugene Fulton, to transport the remains from the castle.  Upon arrival the lawyer inquires Mueller about the late Donovan's last words and Mueller tells him that there were none, since the man died without regaining consciousness after the crash.  Not believing that Mueller is entirely truthful, Fulton remains in the nearby area to further investigate the last hours of Donovan's life before he was declared dead.  Despite Janice's pleading Cory insists on staying at the castle to finish the experiment with the brain.  Through spying on the castle Fulton finds out that Donovan's brain is still intact in a container, but he doesn't act to retrieve it from the scientists, but lets them continue the experiment, well aware of that Donovan didn't leave a penny for his wife in his will.  Fulton has his own interest in the matter, since he is Mrs. Donovan's lover, and he secretly hopes that the scientist succeed in making the brain work, so he can extract information about where Mr. Donovan has hidden away his fortune.

When Mueller and Cory treat the brain with plasma, it gains the ability to communicate with the world through telepathy.  The brain tells Cory that he must go to the Los Angeles Federal Prison.  The plasma stimulation continues with higher and higher doses, even though Janice tries to interrupt the treatment, and soon Cory's brain is hijacked by late Mr. Donovan's brain entirely.  Completely under the influence of Mr. Donovan's brain, Cory leaves for Los Angeles Federal Prison and manages to withdraw cash from one of Donovan's hidden accounts.  He also manages to convince the police to re-open the investigation against a convicted murderer by the name of Roger Collins.  Still under the influence of Mr. Donovan, Cory visits Roger Collins in the prison.

Donovan's brain continues to keep complete influence over Cory.  Through Cory it tries to force Fulton to help release Collins from prison, but Fulton refuses, claiming that there is too overwhelming evidence against him.  A teenager named Mary Lou has witnessed the crime and as long as she sticks to her story the case is too strong.  In an attempt to free Cory from the influence of Donovan's brain, Janice finds out from an investigator named Grimes, hired by Mrs. Donovan and Fulton, that Cory is trying to bribe the witnesses to withdraw their statements.  Grimes has knowledge of Donovan's dirty business and believes that there might be a connection between Collins and Donovan's earlier attempts to get rid of reluctant business counterparts.  He also suspects that Donovan will try to get rid of Mary Lou in the same way, using Cory's body.  It turns out he is right in his suspicion, as Cory forces Janice to go with him in the car when he tries to run Mary Lou over.  When she stops him he tries to kill her instead.

In a sting of jealousy, Mueller's housekeeper and mistress-wannabe feeds sedatives to the brain and it loses its control over Cory, who regains his consciousness.  The awakened Cory tells Janice that Collins in fact is Donovan's unknown son, and that Donovan was the one who committed the murder that Collins was convicted for.  Having returned to the castle in Arizona Cory tries to abort the experiment, but is hindered by Mueller.  They struggle and Mueller ends up being shot by the housekeeper, and the brain is smashed to the floor.  Cory goes on to help free Collins, and Janice waits for him to complete a short prison sentence for his involvement in the brain experiment.

I’ve had nightmares exactly like this.

Donovan's Brain (1953)

  • Genre: Sci-Fi – Horror
  • Directed: Felix E. Feist
  • Produced:
    • Allan Dowling 
    • Tom Gries 
    • Herbert L. Strock
  • Written:
    • Curt Siodmak  (Novel "Donovan's Brain") 
    • Hugh Brooke 
    • Felix E. Feist
  • Starring: Lew Ayres, Gene Evans, Nancy Reagan, Steve Brodie, Tom Powers, Lisa Howard, James Anderson, Victor Sutherland, Michael Colgan, Peter Adams, Harlan Warde, Shimen Ruskin
  • Music: Eddie Dunstedter
  • Cinematography: Joseph F. Biroc
  • Editing: Herbert L. Strock
  • Studio: Dowling Productions
  • Distributed:
    • United Artists  
    • Image Entertainment  
    • L'Atelier 13  
    • MGM Home Entertainment  
    • MGM/UA Home Entertainment
  • Rated: NR
  • Release Date: 30 September 1953 (USA)
  • Running Time: 83 minutes
  • Country: USA
  • Language: English

Donovan's Brain is a 1953 film, starring Lew Ayres, and Nancy Reagan (Yes, that Nancy Reagan - then Nancy Davis), based on the 1942 horror novel Donovan's Brain by Curt Siodmak.

Physician and scientist Patrick J. Cory and his wife Janice bring home a monkey for use in Patrick's brain experiments.  Inside their home laboratory, Pat and his partner, alcoholic surgeon Frank Schratt, achieve their first success in keeping the monkey's brain alive outside of its dead body.  Jan, a nurse, monitors the brain after sheriff's rangers call the doctors to the site of a small plane crash.  Frank and Pat transport the victim, renowned multi-millionaire Walter H. Donovan, to the house for emergency care.  After Donovan dies despite their best efforts, Pat is inspired by the idea of removing Donovan's brain for his experiment.  Ignoring Jan and Frank's protests against the illegal procedure, Pat removes the brain, places it in a liquid solution and connects it to an oscilloscope to monitor brain wave activity.  Donovan's body is remanded to a local hospital and although Pat and Frank are relieved when no autopsy is ordered, Pat is forced to defend Frank against accusations by administrators that he is not fit to perform surgery because of his drinking.  Pat later reluctantly allows news photographer Herbie Yocum to photograph the laboratory where Donovan died.

Pat soon becomes obsessed with Donovan's brain, and while Frank is away, Jan helps him monitor the brain's activity.  After a week, Pat notices that the brain absorbs nourishment and is growing in size.  When Jan expresses concern that Pat's obsession with the experiment is causing their relationship to suffer, Pat affectionately reassures her of his love.  Pat then hooks up the oscilloscope sound monitor so he can hear the brain waves.  Frank, dismissed from his hospital job, returns to the lab and moves in with the couple.  Frank's humorous comment that Pat will need a crystal ball to communicate with the brain inspires Pat to consider telepathy.  The trio researches Donovan's life and learn that he had been a ruthless financier who was under investigation for tax fraud by the Treasury Dept.  That night, Pat focuses all his attention on the brain.  Around four o'clock in the morning, he goes into a trance and scribbles a note in Donovan's handwriting.  Afterward, Pat realizes he has succeeded in making contact with Donovan.  In time, Pat appears to be talking, walking and moving like Donovan, and Frank and Jan express their concern that he has lost control of the experiment.  Pat refuses to relent, however, and, still under Donovan's influence, charters a plane to the city, where he stays in Donovan's favorite hotel.

Herbie encounters Pat in the lobby and becomes suspicious when Pat goes to a bank and cashes a $27,000 check.  The bank manager, who recognizes that the account's signatory is connected to Donovan, alerts the Treasury Dept.  Pat orders a vast amount of scientific equipment for the laboratory, orders several suits made to Donovan's specifications and meets with Donovan's stunned attorney, Nathaniel Fuller, demanding that Fuller contact Donovan's secret Washington, D.C. cohort.  When Fuller refuses because he cannot comprehend Pat's affiliation with Donovan, Pat threatens to incriminate Fuller in Donovan's tax fraud investigation if he refuses to cooperate.  Later that day, Treasury agents Brooke and Smith question Pat, but he steadfastly refuses to provide any information.  Herbie then blackmails Pat by threatening to publish an article titled "Dead Man's Living Brain," complete with photographs of the laboratory.  Donovan's grip on Pat barely wavers when he returns home exhausted, and he immediately sets up the delivered failsafe equipment that is designed to keep the brain alive.  Frank fears that Pat will soon lose his own personality completely and attempts to shut off the power to the brain while Jan and Pat are asleep.  Donovan's brain awakens Pat, however, and he attempts to strangle Frank.  Jan intervenes in time to save Frank's life, but Pat still refuses to end the experiment. 

Back in the city, Pat meets with Fuller and his Washington connection, who states that since Donovan's death, he has agreed to cooperate with the government's investigation. Pat demands his loyalty and vows to continue to pay the man off as Donovan had arranged.  After they leave, Pat suffers extreme physical pain and his own personality takes over.  Because he cannot reach Jan by telephone, he makes a tape recording of instructions for her, referring to the lightning rod on their house as a method to stop the machinery.  He then leaves the hotel but, seeing that he is being followed and unable to otherwise rid himself of Donovan's influence, Pat purposely steps in front of an oncoming truck.  Pat suffers only a mild injury and has a few moments as himself before Donovan's brain takes over again.

Donovan's son and daughter later confront Pat and after admitting that they loathed their vicious father, ask Pat to stop his activities on their dead father's behalf.  Pat is unmoved and reveals that he has arranged for them to be disinherited.  When Herbie demands more money, Pat suggests that he drive to the house to take more photos, then calls Frank to tell him to leave Herbie alone in the laboratory.  There, the brain puts Herbie in a trance that results in a fatal car crash.  Pat checks out of the hospital and initiates a frenzy of activity during which he cashes numerous checks, pays off Fuller and secretly arranges for a special vault to house Donovan's "remains."  Pat is completely consumed by Donovan's thought processes and now becomes suspicious of Frank and Jan, who are planning to disconnect the brain from the equipment. 

When Pat arrives at the house, Jan takes him for a stroll in spite of an impending thunderstorm.  When Jan tells him the experiment is over and delays their return to the house, he starts to strangle her.  At that moment, Frank shoots the brain and Pat appears to be released from its influence.  The brain is still engaged, however, and forces Frank to turn the gun on himself.  Pat and Jan run to the house where Pat, still under the influence, insists that Jan stare at the brain.  At that moment, lightning strikes the rod, which is hooked into the power supply, causing power to go out and engulfing the brain in flames.  Some time later, Brooke arrives to pick up Pat and Frank, who was injured but not killed.  Now that Pat's personality has been restored, he is eager to take responsibility for his actions, and he and Frank are cooperating with the government to help mitigate the charges against them.

Just say no to brain experiments!

The Brain (1962)

  • Original Title: Vengeance
  • Genre: Crime – Horror – Drama
  • Directed: Freddie Francis
  • Produced:
    • Artur Brauner 
    • Raymond Stross
  • Written:
    • Curt Siodmak (Novel "Donovan's Brain") 
    • Robert Stewart 
    • Philip Mackie
  • Starring: Anne Heywood, Peter van Eyck, Cecil Parker, Bernard Lee, Jeremy Spenser, Maxine Audley, Ellen Schwiers, Siegfried Lowitz, Hans Nielsen, Jack MacGowran, Miles Malleson, George A. Cooper, Ann Sears, Irene Richmond
  • Music: Kenneth V. Jones
  • Cinematography: Robert Huke
  • Editing: Oswald Hafenrichter
  • Studio:
    • Central Cinema Company Film  
    • Raymond Stross Productions
  • Distributed:
    • Governor Films  
    • Europa-Filmverleih AG  
    • Media Home Entertainment  
    • Monterey Video  
    • Nostalgia Video  
    • Pidax Film  
    • Something Weird Video
  • Rated: NR
  • Release Date:
    • September 1962 (UK) 
    • 9 October 1962 (West Germany) 
    • 1964 (USA)
  • Running Time: 83 minutes
  • Country:
    • United Kingdom 
    • West Germany
  • Language: English

The Brain is a 1962 film directed by Freddie Francis.  It stars Anne Heywood and Peter van Eyck.  A UK-West German production (also released as "Ein Toter sucht seinen Mörder") The Brain differs from earlier film versions of the Curt Siodmak novel Donovan's Brain: in this remake, the dead man seeks his own murderer, through contact with the doctor keeping his brain alive.

And that is the extent of information I can find on this film.

Hauser's Memory (1970)

  • Genre: Sci-Fi
  • Directed: Boris Sagal
  • Produced: Jack Laird
  • Written:
    • Curt Siodmak (Novel “Hauser’s Memory”) 
    • Adrian Spies
  • Starring: David McCallum, Susan Strasberg, Helmut Käutner, Lilli Palmer, Leslie Nielsen, Robert Webber, Herbert Fleischmann, Hans Elwenspoek, Peter Capell, Barbara Lass
  • Music: Billy Byers
  • Cinematography: Petrus R. Schlömp
  • Editing: Frank Morriss
  • Studio: Universal TV
  • Distributed:
    • National Broadcasting Company  
    • Cesáreo González Producciones Cinematográficas  
    • Suevia Films - Cesáreo González  
    • Universal Pictures
  • Rated: NR
  • Release Date: 24 November 1970 (USA)
  • Running Time: 96 minutes
  • Country: USA
  • Language: English

Hauser's Memory was a 1970 science fiction television movie that was directed by Boris Sagal and starred Susan Strasberg, David McCallum, Lilli Palmer, Robert Webber and Leslie Nielsen.  The screenplay by Adrian Spies was based on a 1968 novel of the same name by Curt Siodmak, which was a sequel to the novel Donovan's Brain (1943).

The dying scientist Hauser knows of missile secrets.  In order to preserve this information, the CIA has scientist Hillel Mondoro inject himself with the cerebrospinal fluid extracted from Hauser.  However, Hauser's wife Anna turns out to be pro-Nazi, and the memory of this woman also become imprinted on Mondoro's mind.  Hauser's memory starts to take control of Mondoro and causes him to try to even out some old scores.

This film was a nominee for the 1971 Hugo Award for Best Dramatic Presentation.  Once again there wasn’t much information on this film, sorry.



1.  A person having a Jekyll and Hyde complex has a dual personality.  He/she may reveal his or her good side at times while at other times the dark side takes over.

2.  In sociology, the East–West dichotomy is the perceived differences between the Eastern world and Western cultures.  Cultural rather than geographical in division, the boundaries of East and West are not fixed, but vary according to the criteria adopted by individuals using the term.  Historically, Asian and Islamic nations have been regarded as East, while Australia, Canada, Europe, New Zealand, and the United States are regarded as West.  Used in discussing such studies as management, economics and linguistics, the concept is criticized for overlooking regional hybridity.


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