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Retro review: Donovan's Brain - Siodmak's sci-fi sensation

BY David Parkinson

1st Jan 2015 Film & TV

Retro review: Donovan's Brain - Siodmak's sci-fi sensation

Curt Siodmak's novel about a scientist whose mind is taken over by the surgically removed brain of an evil tycoon has been filmed three times - is this the ultimate adaptation?

Blending elements from Frankenstein and Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde, it packs a potent political subtext about the dangers of authoritarianism. But it also makes for rollicking Sci Fi fun, especially when boffin Lew Ayres's nurse wife is played by Nancy Davis, who would become First Lady Nancy Reagan.

Orson Welles was sufficiently impressed by the tale to adapt it for the radio. But the dialogue here is often cringeworthy and the plot gleefully preposterous. Nevertheless, it is enacted with admirable gravity, although the real treat for B movie aficionados is the splendid laboratory set designed by Russell Kimball and the glowing light effect devised by Theodore Lydecker to allow the brain suspended in a saline tank to pulse malevolently whenever it issues its telepathic instructions.

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