DONOVAN’S BRAIN

imageI’m grateful to Aurora at Once Upon A Time  for highlighting some great episodes from the SUSPENSE radio series .

One I loved from 1944 was Donovan’s Brain, starring Orson Welles.

Donovan’s Brain was a 1942 novel by Curt Siodmak (who is known for horror and sci-fi scripts such as Wolf Man and I Walked With A Zombie.)

It became an hour long radio drama in 1944. A terrific adaptation, perfect for radio. ( Suspense episodes were  usually 30 minutes long, but this one was heard in two parts.)

imageThe story concerns a Dr Cory (Welles) whose research is to find a way to keep a human heart alive after death..Millionaire W.H.Donovan dies in an accident and Cory does, illegally, manage to remove Donovan’s brain and keep it alive in some sort of plasma solution in a container.

Radio sound effects are so skilful – apparently for the sound of the brain, an oscillator and a motor pump were used!

The sci-fi part of the story involves Cory becoming obsessed with communicating with the brain. A telepathic link begins and gradually Cory comes under the control of the brain, and becomes Donovan.

The broadcast can be heard on Archive.org. Welles is excellent.

For those who have heard it,I’ll say one thing:

Sure,sure,sure!”

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Also in 1944, Republic used the story for The Lady and The Monster, with Richard Arlen, Vera Ralston and Erich Von Stroheim.I haven’t seen this one.

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But I have seen the 1953 film version which was written and directed by Felix Feist. Lew Ayres plays Dr.Cory and the rest of the cast includes Nancy Davis as his wife and Gene Evans as his lab assistant. Steve Brodie is a snooping photographer.

All the ingredients are there for another good adaptation of the Siodmak book,but it was too long at 83 minutes, slowing the pace and tension.

Ayres is good as he becomes hypnotised and adopts Donovan’s mannerisms. The brain is taking over Cory’s body!

I have to say the radio version was more exciting.

Nancy Davis, Lew Ayres,Gene Evans

Nancy Davis, Lew Ayres,Gene Evans

It’s time I read the book.

2 responses »

  1. There was another version of this story made in the UK in 1962 titled
    simply THE BRAIN starring Anne Heywood and Peter Van Eyck,directed
    by Freddie Francis. Have not seen it;or the other two versions,but it’s
    supposed to be pretty good.
    Speaking of Felix Feist I recently saw his Noir THE DEVIL THUMBS A RIDE
    which I really enjoyed.

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