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Based upon the novel by Curt Siodmak, DONOVAN'S BRAIN ($15) is one of the most intriguing of 1950s sci-fi movies. Made at a time when space aliens were becoming the mainstay of the genre, DONOVAN'S BRAIN offered a Frankenstein-like tale with a twist. Lew Ayres stars in DONOVAN'S BRAIN as Dr. Patrick Cory, a scientist, who experiments push the envelope on extending the life of the brain after the body has died. After a number of failed experiments on monkeys, Cory finally meets with success, managing to keep the brain alive in a glass container with electrical current and some form of liquid nutrient.

As coincidence would have it, a small private plane crashes near Cory's country home/laboratory and the authorities seek his assistance with the injured. One of the crash victims is millionaire W.H. Donovan, whose injuries prove to be beyond the combined medical skills of Cory and his colleague Dr. Schratt (Gene Evans). However, Cory thinks he can save Donovan's brain, so against the objections of Schratt and his wife Janice (Nancy Davis) Cory tries the radical procedure on the recently deceased millionaire. Although alive, the brain lacks a way of communicating, so Cory devises an apparatus that allows him to psychically link with the disembodied mind. Unfortunately, the unlimited power supply gives Donovan's brain the ability to control the bodies of others, and soon the disreputable millionaire is using Cory's body to reestablish control of his financial empire and kill anyone who gets in his way.

MGM Home Entertainment has made DONOVAN'S BRAIN in a full screen presentation that is representative the film's original theatrical framing. The black and white image on the DVD is quite sharp and offers up a very respectable level of detail that allows one to appreciate the textures of fabrics and little nuances in some of the sets. There are some age related blemishes on the film elements, although they are rather insignificant. Film grain is also noticeable in places throughout the presentation, but it isn’t distracting. Blacks are quite solid and inky, plus the image provides good contrast and clean, stable whites. Digital compression artifacts never make their presence known on this smartly authored DVD.

The Dolby Digital monaural soundtrack is on par for a 1953 production. There are limitations to the fidelity of the recordings, but the sound never becomes distorted, nor does it suffer from noticeable background hiss. Dialogue is fairly crisp and always intelligible. A Spanish language soundtrack is also included on the DVD, as are French and Spanish subtitles. The basic interactive menus provide access to the standard scene selection and set up features, as well as a theatrical trailer.

DONOVAN'S BRAIN is a minor sci-fi classic that benefits from a solid performance by leading man Lew Ayres, who never plays down to the material, despite its outlandish nature. This film is also noteworthy because it features former first lady Nancy (Davis) Regan during her Hollywood days. Additionally, MGM's DVD looks and sounds fine for a film of its age, making this a disc that genre fans will want to check out.


Donovan's Brain


DVD reviews are Copyright 2001 THE CINEMA LASER and may not be copied or reprinted without the written consent of the publisher.
THE CINEMA LASER is written, edited and published by Derek M. Germano.



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