“What an idea, stealing a man’s brain.”

Dr. Patrick J. Cory lives in the mountains with his wife Janice. Pat is researching brains with his assistant and friend Dr. Frank Schratt. He is experimenting with monkeys in his home laboratory. He is attempting to keep a monkey’s brain alive after having removed it from the monkey’s skull. A private plane belonging to businessman Warren Donovan crashes near the Cory’s home. The only survivor, Donovan, is brought to Dr. Cory. However, Donovan soon dies. Cory decides to use Donovan’s brain in his experiments. Cory keeps the brain alive in a tank filled with an electrified saline solution.

After researching Donovan’s life, Pat, Frank and Janice find out that Donovan was a ruthless, evil man. Soon Cory begins to believe that Donovan’s brain is trying to communicate with him. Cory starts to exhibit traits that are not part of his normal personality. Donovan begins to impose his personality on Corey controlling what he does. Cory begins to take on Donovan’s traits and mannerisms. Donovan has taken over Cory and uses him to dispose of his enemies. Janice and Frank realize that something is wrong with Cory. They know that Donovan has become powerful and can make anyone do anything. They suspect that Donovan is using telepathic mind control to make people do his bidding. His aim is to take over Cory’s body completely. Frank and Janice need to come up with a plan to stop Donovan before it’s too late.

Brains are a good subject for horror movies. From eating them to being controlled by them. Some are from outer space and some are from around the corner. Some have heads and some live in just a nutrient solution. Others have a way of sliding along on a spinal cord like an inch worm and some just hover in space. There are famous brains like Spock’s and even Hitler’s brain shows up in at least three movies I’m aware of. No matter what you do with it, the brain is the most complex and the most interesting organ in the body. We never stop finding ways to reflect it in cinema, or to use it as one of the scariest monsters out there.

“Donovan’s Brain” was released in 1953. It was directed by Felix Feist. From a story by Curt Siodmak. It stars Lew Ayers, Gene Evans, Nancy Reagan and Steve Brodie. Nancy Regan was of course the wife of the late president Ronald Reagan.

There are a lot of factors that make a horror movie. This one starts with a scientist’s hubris that he can, in effect, steal a brain from a dead guy with no compunction. The brain is there, he needs one, why not take it. With “Donovan’s Brain” there is also the idea that Donovan is taking over, not only Corey’s psyche but his body as well. Is it really Donovan that is taking over Corey or is it Corey being lost in his obsession?