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Donovan's Brain (1953)

Approved  |   |  Sci-Fi, Horror  |  30 September 1953 (USA)
6.0
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Ratings: 6.0/10 from 965 users  
Reviews: 33 user | 17 critic

Yet another version of Curt Siodmak's novel about an honest scientist who keeps the brain of a ruthless dead millionaire (Donovan) alive in a tank. Donovan manages to impose his powerful ... See full summary »

Director:

(as Felix Feist)

Writers:

(novel), (adaptation), 1 more credit »
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Directors: Curt Siodmak, Herbert L. Strock
Stars: Richard Carlson, King Donovan, Jean Byron
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Cast

Complete credited cast:
...
Gene Evans ...
...
Janice Cory (as Nancy Davis)
Steve Brodie ...
Herbie Yocum
Tom Powers ...
Donovan's Washington Advisor
Lisa Howard ...
Chloe Donovan (as Lisa K. Howard)
James Anderson ...
Chief Tuttle (as Kyle James)
Victor Sutherland ...
Nathaniel Fuller
Michael Colgan ...
Tom Donovan
Peter Adams ...
Mr. Webster
Harlan Warde ...
Treasury Agent Brooke
Shimen Ruskin ...
Tailor
Edit

Storyline

Yet another version of Curt Siodmak's novel about an honest scientist who keeps the brain of a ruthless dead millionaire (Donovan) alive in a tank. Donovan manages to impose his powerful will on the scientist, and uses him to murder his enemies. Written by Marty McKee <mmckee@wkio.com>

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis

Genres:

Sci-Fi | Horror

Certificate:

Approved | See all certifications »
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Details

Official Sites:

Country:

Language:

Release Date:

30 September 1953 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Donovans Hirn  »

Company Credits

Production Co:

 »
Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

(Western Electric Recording)

Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
See  »
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Did You Know?

Trivia

Dr. Cory, under the control of the brain, makes out a list showing several false identities under which Donovan has hidden money around the country. The first four names on the list are actual names of crew members: production supervisor H.B. Chapman, production designer Boris Leven, assistant director Jack R. Berne (on list as "Jack Byrne") and set decorator Edward Boyle. The fifth name, Fred Russell, is that of a popular sports writer of the early 1950s. See more »

Goofs

At one point, Frank (Gene Evans) states "Pat made that recording while the brain was destroying Yocum." However, in the final edited version of the movie, Pat (Dr. Cory, played by Lew Ayres) makes his recording several days before Yocum is killed. See more »

Quotes

Dr. Patrick J. Cory: Perhaps I'll cure Frank and every other alcoholic if I can solve the mystery of Donovan's Brain. I think it's a matter of chemistry how the brain thinks. The problem is to find out what chemical combinations are responsible for success... failure... happiness... misery.
Janice Cory: Sounds impossible.
Dr. Patrick J. Cory: But it is not. It can't be. There has to be a way.
See more »

Connections

Remake of The Lady and the Monster (1944) See more »

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User Reviews

 
Not as corny as it sounds
30 April 2010 | by (United States) – See all my reviews

Made in an age when the science fiction film genre was dominated by giant insects and monsters from beneath the sea (not that there's anything wrong with those) "Donovan's Brain" stands out as a more understated (and under-appreciated) gem.

A movie about a dead financier's brain being kept alive in a fish tank as it takes over the minds of people around it could easily become silly; in fact it would be hard for such a premise NOT to be silly (which is why Steve Martin loosely adapted the premise for his comedy "The Man with Two Brains.")

But thanks to deliberate pacing and fine performances from its cast, what could have been an exercise in the ridiculous becomes instead a surprisingly effective film. The very reserved script keeps "techno-babble" to a minimum as the story unfolds, and a low budget limits most of the visual and special effects to the very basic, but rather than feeling "cheap," the film's spare quality instead tends to limit distractions from the story.

In 1944's "The Lady and the Monster" (a lesser and earlier adaptation of Curt Siodmak's novel) the brain's takeovers were signaling obviously, using lighting and musical cues. But in "Donovan's Brain" you know the brain has taken control solely due to the controlled and subtle performance of Lew Ayres, who indicates a transformation in Dr. Cory by as little as a change in posture and a hardening of his expression (no such kudos for Steve Brodie as Herbie Yocum, whose inane "zombie walk" stands out in its cheesiness.) Gene Evans also did well in the movie playing Cory's assistant Dr. Frank Schratt, and future first lady Nancy Davis turns in a serviceable, if somewhat wooden, performance as Cory's steadfast wife.

"Donovan's Brain" will not be anyone's favorite movie; coming out in a year which also saw the release of classics like "The War of the Worlds," "The Beast from 20,000 Fathoms," "It Came From Outer Space" and "Invasion from Mars," it's not even anyone's favorite sci-fi movie of 1953. But although it's not considered a classic, this small film far overcomes its B-movie title. It's better than it sounds, and well worth a look.


4 of 5 people found this review helpful.  Was this review helpful to you?

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