Dono­van’s Brain

Over­think­ing it

SFX: The Sci-Fi and Fantasy Magazine - - DVD & Blu-Ray -

Re­lease Date: OUT NOW! 1953 | PG | DVD Direc­tor: Felix Feist Cast: Lew Ayres, Gene Evans, Nancy Davis, Steve Brodie

Hol­ly­wood’s sec­ond shot at Curt Siod­mak’s cult novel, this tale of pos­ses­sion is closer to its source ma­te­rial than 1944’ s The Lady And The Mon­ster but plays like a prod­uct of its time: a sin­is­ter, sus­pi­cious fa­ble for a na­tion peer­ing through sub­ur­ban blinds at the folk next door.

While In­va­sion Of The Body Snatch­ers made alien in­fil­tra­tion a res­o­nant metaphor for the Red Scare, this piece of ’ 50s para­noia finds men­ace at the heart of the Amer­i­can dream. The un­seen WH Dono­van is an avari­cious, tax­dodg­ing ty­coon, cap­i­tal­ism at its cru­ellest. Fa­tally in­jured in a plane crash, his brain is kept alive by a sur­geon keen to test the fron­tiers of med­i­cal ethics – Vic­tor Franken­stein for the Eisen­hower era, es­sen­tially (“What an idea! Steal­ing a man’s brain!”). Soon Dono­van’s grey mat­ter is ex­ert­ing a malev­o­lent in­flu­ence on its saviour…

The sight of the brain, bub­bling in its glass tank, lashed up to elec­trodes and whis­per­ing through os­cil­lo­scopes, makes for a won­der­fully lurid vis­ual but the movie never tips into full drive- in schlock. There’s a re­strained touch of film noir in its hats and suits and shad­ows. Dono­van wants to con­quer the fi­nan­cial mar­kets, not battle the army or ter­rify teens. The great­est spe­cial ef­fect is Lew Ayres’s chill­ing turn as the sci­en­tist whose body is claimed from be­yond the grave, iden­tity theft made flesh and blood.

Ex­tras: None. Nick Setch­field Direc­tor Felix Feist was the adop­tive step­fa­ther of fan­tasy nov­el­ist Ray­mond E Feist.

“Nope, it def­i­nitely can’t swim…”

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