Donovan’s Brain (1953)

Felix E. Fiest’s take on the much-adapted Curt Siodmak novel is worth checking out. Scientist Dr. Cory (played by Lew Ayres) researches keeping brains alive, which leads to him secretly preserving the brain of a corrupt millionaire industrialist named Donovan who “died” in an airplane crash.

Deluding himself on the ethics of his practices, Dr. Cory justifies his research to his wife and fellow researcher Dr. Schratt as benefiting mankind. Eventually, however, Donovan’s brain gains the power of mind-control and exploits Dr. Cory and others to advance its plan to clear Donovan’s name, gain revenge and dominate the world’s financial markets. Is there a message here? Probably.

However, what really makes the film is its screwball quality. As Dr. Cory, Lew Ayres demonstrates an American can-do optimism and willingness to ignore moral issues indicative of a sociopath. When possessed by Donovan’s brain, Lew Ayres’ performance becomes even more interesting as he ruthlessly carries out Donovan’s blackmailing and dirty business dealings all the while adopting a taste for rare steaks, soft asparagus, bespoke blue serge suits and H. Upmann cigars. Gene Evans also turns in a great performance as Dr. Cory’s alcoholic assistant surgeon.

Great dialogue. Awesome retro laboratory. Campy dialogue that is not annoying. A throbbing brain in a fish tank. Worth a watch for s/f fans (it’s on Netflix for those that are interested).

Dr. Patrick J. Cory: [after Cory wakes Scratt up from a drunken stupor] My dear Dr. Schratt, you sober up with more

[pauses and shrugs] grace than anyone I ever saw. You’re terrific. C’mon, let’s go.

Dr. Frank Schratt: Are you kidding?

[He hold out his shaking hand]

Dr. Frank Schratt: . Look! Nope.

Dr. Patrick J. Cory: Frank, don’t let me down.

Dr. Frank Schratt: What’s more useless than a surgeon with a hangover? I’m a drunken zero.! I pass!

Dr. Patrick J. Cory: No, you don’t. I’d rather have you do a corneal transplant for me drunk than anyone else sober.

[Pulls him by the arm]

Dr. Patrick J. Cory: Let’s go boy.

Dr. Frank Schratt: You’re brilliant but not normal.

Dr. Patrick J. Cory: [Laughs] So are you, but are you and who is?

(photo still from


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