Life Returns (1935)

Article #857 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 7-20-2003
Posting Date: 12-17-2003
Directed by Eugene Frenke
Featuring Onslow Stevens, George Breakston, Valerie Hobson

A scientist working on life resuscitation loses his job and then his wife, and then discovers that the law wants to send his son to a juvenile home.

Title check: It refers to the central gimmick of the film; see below.

This movie was built around footage of Dr. Robert E. Cornish bringing a dead dog back to life; this footage does indeed look like stock footage of a real life event rather than original footage, and the dialogue during this sequence has the quality of having been said rather than written, which is not the case during the rest of the film. I wasn’t sure whether to call this science fiction or not, but I’ve heard the revival of a dead animal is highly dependant on how soon you can get to it after it dies; since I suspect the span of time implied in the plot of the movie is most likely longer than the span of time of the real life event, I’ll call it science fiction. I am somewhat amused that rather than filming the story of the doctor himself, they seem to film the story of a fictional associate that then becomes a tear-jerking children’s movie, where the scientist’s wife dies of something that no one bothers to explain. Part of the plot revolves around the child trying to save his dog from an evil dogcatcher who plans to gas him. It’s corny, silly, and poorly written, though I’m willing to bet if I saw it as a child I would have been in tears. Still, it is a curious approach to telling this type of story.

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