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Idealistic doctoral graduates Bob (Dr. Robert E. Cornish), Louise and John plan their futures in pursuit of a formula to restore life to the dead. Bob and Louise wish to remain independent and pursue medical research free of corporate ties. John tries in vain to convince them that by joining him to work at Arnold Research Laboratories they could achieve more research in a year than they could in five as an independent research team. John leaves his friends for corporate pharmacology only to find the pace of his research is not progressing fast enough nor seems practical enough to suit Mr. Arnold. The final blow comes when he is told to turn his attention to creating a treated pig bristle brush to restore hair and prop up his bosses investments in pig processing. Disillusioned Dr. John Kendrick faces public ridicule as he promotes his theory to his peers and falls into a deep depression that costs him his private medical practice. Five years later the sudden passing of his wife, drives... Written by
G. E. Sutton
Uses footage from actual University of Southern California experiment in which scientists claimed they brought a dead dog back to life. Robert E. Cornish, playing himself in the film, was one of the scientists involved. See more »
LIFE RETURNS (Eugene Frenke and, uncredited, James P. Hogan, 1935) **
The presence in the cast of Onslow Stevens (later the nominal lead in 1945's HOUSE OF Dracula) and Valerie Hobson (who starred in both BRIDE OF FRANKENSTEIN and WEREWOLF OF London that same year) is the only indication that this obscure curio was a product of Universal Studios during their golden age as Hollywood's top purveyors of chills and thrills. However, despite this being (relatively speaking) a "mad doctor with a back-from-the-dead scheme" scenario, the end result is far removed from the entertainment value and artistic quality one usually associates with that celebrated horror cycle. Indeed, the film ends up being closer in feel to a Warner Bros-type of social document crossed with a Hal Roach "Our Gang" flick and directed by exploitationer Dwain Esper! Unfortunately, it plays far less amusingly than that bizarre concoction sounds!
Stevens falls out with his two fellow students (including real-life scientist Dr. Robert E. Cornish, who the previous year had actually accomplished the life-giving experiment that inspired the movie in the first place!) over financing their project and goes to work for a commercial firm which, however, soon drops him when his continuous attempts grow costlier and more fruitless by the day. This rejection makes him give up his well-paying daytime practice of treating elderly socialites of non-existent ailments and his consequent impoverishment drives wife Hobson to an early grave and son George Breakston to a juvenile court! The latter eventually takes to the road with his pet dog and joins a gang of streetwise kids who live on their wiles in procuring whatever food they can from 'providential' neighbors! Needless to say, this situation ends badly with the dog being caught by the authorities and subsequently gassed and one of the kids getting hurt in the attempt to free the mutt.
Distressed by failing his son yet again in curing his wounded friend (claiming to be 'washed-up'), Stevens contrives to set up an operation in which Breakston's dead dog is revived, thus proving his initial theory after all! As silly as it sounds, the footage depicting this is actually authentic and integrated into the storyline by having Stevens narrate the ongoing procedure carried out by Cornish and his colleagues (similarly portraying themselves) to a group of gathered medicos something which he himself could not accomplish because his ostensible patrons did not want to fork out any more dough on some all-important apparatus! Being a lifelong animal lover, this sequence (showing Cornish giving mouth-to-mouth resuscitation to the dog!) could not fail to stir me and easily emerges as the film's highlight even if LIFE RETURNS itself as a whole proved too amateurish and bland for a Universal horror product! For the record, uncredited co-director James Hogan would later make yet another lesser (but more typical) example along similar 'revivification' lines i.e. THE MAD GHOUL (1943).
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