(The above is not the cover of my book, the one shown - imo - is quite poor!)
Many novels get turned into films, and too often people see one without ever attempting to read the original. Which is a shame. Oh well, cinema needs writing too......
In the case of Donovan's Brain I saw the movie many moons ago. It's a tough one to get out of your head, especially when you're young and impressionable. There's just something quite cool about a brain in a fish tank, no?
So when I saw the novel in a store I just had to grab it.
The novel tells the tale of Patrick Cory, a scientist who is already madly obsessed with his strange experiments, and attempts to keep a brain alive outside of the body. The second main "character" is Warren Horace Donovan.
Donovan is/was a man rich beyond all dreams. But there are few men who can become as rich as he is without putting others down, and trampling on them.
One plane crash later, and one body smashed to pieces, and Patrick has himself a new case to work with.
The first problem is solved quickly, just how do you keep a brain alive outside the body? The second problem is more difficult - how do you communicate with something that has no senses? With the eyes gone, the ears, no mouth, no touch, smell.... let's face it, Donovan has a long way to go before he makes the football team.
Lights? Ticker tape? Morse?
How's about some psychic research?
Once the brain is established the story changes somewhat. Rather than addressing the issues around a brain in a jar, we find Patrick Cory performing all kinds of weird acts on behalf of the brain. The main mystery is - why is the brain asking him to do these things? Which is quite a big task for an author dealing with a disembodied brain, no?
Finally the mystery rolls out with perfection, every loophole is tied off, every hole filled. It's all very satisfying really.
The book is written as extracts from a diary (starting September 13th and going through the following June 10th). This also allows the author to spend as much time as he wants on the things that are important, but to skip large passages of time when nothing is happening. It's a nice device.
Donovan's Brain is a good film (if you like cheesy 50's sci-fi) but it's also a good book, which won't surprise anyone here. Highly recommended.
I like reading the original source of films I enjoy - so this was a sheer joy. Nice.
Pleasantly surprised to find this one here, while I was looking for something else.
Curt Siodmak is a name to conjure with. Although best known for Donovan's Brain, he also wrote the screenplay for the Peter Lorre's The Beast With Five Fingers. While Googling a moment ago, I learned that Siodmak also wrote a novel of that title: Siodomak's Beast at Fantastic Fiction.
Unfortunately they don't have a cover scan or any details other than that the publisher was Warner Bros. in 1945. If accurate, this predates the film by a year, incidentally. Personally I've always rated the film above the W F Harvey short story, despite the large slices of ham.
I was immediately hooked by the novel of Donovan's Brain, starting with the protagonist buying a monkey from an organ-grinder, taking it home, petting it, then "I stabbed it between the occipital bone and the first cervical vertabra."
Another of his novels, Hauser's Memory was filmed. He scripted Chaney's The Wolf Man, and Lewton's I Walked With a Zombie.
"If Curt Siodmak, still interestedly observing worldly affairs from some afterlife, were told that he was being added to a Biographical Encyclopedia of Science Fiction Film, his angry response would be, "Well, what took them so long?" For retirement had turned Siodmak into a grumpy old man, believing (not without some justice) that his extensive contributions to science fiction literature and film were being shamefully overlooked. Still, one might respond, Siodmak's novels and movies, while undeniably numerous, were not exactly masterpieces, and perhaps they deserved to be overlooked."
But Westfahl does point out Siodmak's triumphs, and I have to say that I thoroughly enjoyed Donovan's Brain.
There's a Russian film I viewed recently on Mosfilm, Professor Dowell's Testament, which looks remarkably like another version of this; the aforementioned Prof being a much-lauded scientist who is reclusive on account of being a head attached to a box. There's a dog, too. It's supposed to be based on a Russian story, but I suspect a little Soviet-era plagiarism. Fun movie, though.
Cthulhu loves me this I know, the Necronomicon told me so