Donovan’s Brain (1953)

Article #182 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing date: 9-14-2001
Posting date: 1-28-2002

When a millionaire dies in a plane crash near the home of a scientist experimenting with brains, his brain is removed and kept alive by artificial means. However, the brain gains the ability to take over the will of the scientist when he tries to communicate with it.

This is the second of three versions of the Curt Siodmak novel, and my favorite one. The basic premise is a little far-fetched, but the wealth of detail and a strong performance by Lew Ayres make the movie quite convincing. I like the fact that Ayres is not playing a mad scientist, but rather a well-intentioned one who finds himself in a position where an opportunity to extend his research drops into his lap, even though making use of the opportunity is illegal. I also like the fact that Donovan walked with a limp, so that whenever Dr. Cory is taken over by the brain, you can tell without a word being said. Also, the decision to hook up a machine that responds audibly to the changes of Donovan’s brainwaves is a clever and effective use of sound to convey tension and suspense. It’s the accumulation of details of this sort that show the care that can be taken with movies like this. The movie also features Gene Evans, Nancy Davis, and Steve Brodie.

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