Prof. Franz Mueller:
What do I know about the brain itself? Nothing. Can it think? Remember after its body is dead? Could it be made to feel, to hear perhaps, or to express itself in some way? To contact the living?
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THE LADY AND THE MONSTER (George Sherman, 1944) ***
Although I did like my two viewings of Felix E. Feist's 1953 film version of Curt Siodmak's DONOVAN'S BRAIN (with Lew Ayres and Gene Evans), somehow I have yet to acquire it for my home video collection; besides, I am also familiar (from an age-old Italian TV screening) with the later Freddie Francis version entitled VENGEANCE aka THE BRAIN (1962) where Peter Van Eyck and Anne Heywood had the leading roles. What I did acquire very recently, however, is the even rarer original version directed by the reliable George Sherman and starring the great Erich von Stroheim, Contrary to expectations, the latter is neither the monster of the title nor (for the initiated) the man taken over by the dead financial wizard's brain; that unlucky guy is Richard Arlen the hero of ISLAND OF LOST SOULS (1932) no less who, as Stroheim's unlikely assistant in his underground experiments, gets to become even more obsessed with their celebrated cerebral specimen than his crazed mentor! From the rest of the cast, Vera Hruba Ralston may have later become Mrs. Herbart J. Yates (when she married the head of Republic Pictures, the studio behind this film) but, frankly, she brought very little to this particular film; on the other hand, it was nice to see Sidney Blackmer best-known for portraying Adrian Marcato in Roman Polanski's ROSEMARY'S BABY (1968) albeit in a supporting role of the suspicious attorney. Incidentally, the sequences depicting the blooming romance between Arlen and Ralston and those between Blackmer and Donovan's wife can mostly be written off as mere padding; small wonder, therefore, that the film was shorn of 19 whole minutes (cut down from 86 to 67!) for a later re-release not to mention being saddled with the highly ludicrous (and utterly misleading) alternate titles of TIGER MAN and MONSTER AND TIGER MAN!! Speaking of titles, despite the sheer similarity to the earlier Paramount horror entry THE MONSTER AND THE GIRL (1941), as can be gleaned from my own reviews of both films, they have nothing whatsoever in content (other than being of the same era and genre). Despite these flaws, I generally liked the film more than I was expecting to and that fact is mostly down to two simple factors: the presence of Erich von Stroheim in front of the cameras and that of celebrated cinematographer John Alton behind them! Even though the quality of the copy I acquired was fairly fuzzy at best, Alton's atmospheric lighting came through just the same particularly during the atmospheric laboratory sequences and the eerie scenes showing Arlen's 'possession'.
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