Donovan’s Brain (1953) – reviewed by George

Doctors Patrick and Jan Cory (Lew Ayres and Nancy Davis) are heading to their isolated mountain lab with a new lab monkey and Jan is afraid it’s cold so she moves it into her lap, where it does seem calmer. Their partner Dr. Frank Schratt (Gene Evans) is a corneal surgeon and an alcoholic, which explains why he works away from towns.
Jan brings in the monkey, and Pat helps Frank sober up. Jan expresses second thoughts about using the monkey, and Pat dismisses them with a fairly clever comparison.
Now in lab coats, he and Frank go to work. Both men are hopeful of a good outcome, snd then we learn what that means when Pat says, “In 30 minutes we’ll have a monkey brain – alive.”
And this time they’re successful and happy – even Jan. But then an emergency call and Pat and Frank have to leave. A plane has crashed and three men are dead, one severely injured. Upon examining him, Pat tells the men who made the call that the injured man will never make it to the hospital, and one of the men suggests the doctors’s place, “It’s a lot closer.”
So the man is taken there, snd though Pat is unimpressed, he learns that the man is Ward H. Donovan and is worth 100 million dollars. “The sky’s the limit on your fee.”
But as Pat says, “Money can’t help him now.”
Donovan dies, and the three doctors are discussing moving the body out of the lab and into the garage when Pat gets his bright idea. And you’re ahead of him and already know what he’s thinking.
The brain is still alive (his chest was crushed) and so they take the brain and install it in the nutrient fluid and wire it up.
As you’ve guessed, Donovan is so strong-willed that he takes over Patrick and controls him, manifesting himself clearly, and Pat becomes, not rude, but abrupt and demanding with a very short temper. And then he becomes rude.
Can this film have a happy ending, or will getting rid of Donovan get rid of Pat too?
Unusual because the horror is somehow distant, not seeming likely to hurt Jan or Frank. After all they’re back at the lab while Pat/Ward is pulling shady deals (and engineering punishments) in the city.
Different and recommended. From the Novel “Donovan’s Brain” by Curt Siodmak, Adapted by Hugh Brooke, Screenplay by Felix Feist, Directed by Felix Feist.

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