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Donovan's Brain

Donovan's Brain

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Donovan's Brain is a 1942
1942 in literature
The year 1942 in literature involved some significant events and new books.-Events:*André Gide leaves France to live in Tunis.*Robertson Davies becomes editor of the Peterborough Examiner.*Thomas Mann emigrates to California....

 science fiction novel by Curt Siodmak
Curt Siodmak
Curt Siodmak was a novelist and screenwriter. He made a name for himself in Hollywood with horror and science fiction films, most notably The Wolf Man and Donovan's Brain...


The novel has become something of a cult
The word cult in current popular usage usually refers to a group whose beliefs or practices are considered abnormal or bizarre. The word originally denoted a system of ritual practices...

 classic, with fans including Stephen King
Stephen King
Stephen Edwin King is an American author of contemporary horror, suspense, science fiction and fantasy fiction. His books have sold more than 350 million copies and have been adapted into a number of feature films, television movies and comic books...

. King discusses the novel in his own book Danse Macabre
Danse Macabre (book)
Danse Macabre is a non-fiction book by Stephen King, about horror fiction in print, radio, film and comics, and the genre's influence on United States popular culture...

 and the line Cory uses to resist Donovan is repeated to similar effect in King's horror novel, It
It (novel)
It is a 1986 horror novel by American author Stephen King. The story follows the exploits of seven children as they are terrorized by the eponymous inter-dimensional predatory life-form that exploits the fears and phobias of its victims in order to disguise itself while hunting its prey. "It"...



The novel is written in the form of diary entries by Dr. Patrick Cory, a middle-aged physician whose experiments at keeping a brain alive are subsidized by Cory's wealthy wife. Under investigation for tax evasion and criminal financial activities, millionaire megalomaniac W.H. Donovan crashes his private plane in the desert near the home of Dr. Cory. The physician is unable to save Donovan's life, but removes his brain on the chance that it might survive, placing the gray matter in an electrically charged, oxygenated saline solution within a glass tank. The brainwaves indicate that thought—and life—continue. Cory makes several futile attempts to communicate with it. Finally, one night Cory receives unconscious commands, jotting down a list of names in a handwriting not his own—it is Donovan's. Cory successfully attempts telepathic contact with Donovan's brain, much to the concern of Cory's occasional assistant, Dr. Schratt, an elderly alcoholic.

Gradually, the malignant intelligence takes over Cory's personality, leaving him in an amnesiac fugue state when he awakes. The brain uses Cory to do his bidding, signing checks in Donovan's name, and continuing the magnate's illicit financial schemes. Cory becomes increasingly like the paranoid Donovan himself, his physique and manner morphing into the limping image of the departed criminal. Donovan's bidding culminates in an attempt to have Cory kill a young girl who stands in the way of his plans. Realizing he will soon have no control over his own body and mind, Cory devises a plan to destroy the brain during its quiescent period. Cory resists the brain's hypnotic power by repeating the rhyme "He thrusts his fists against the posts and still insists he sees the ghosts." With Dr. Schratt's help, he destroys the housing tank with an ax and leaves the brain of Donovan to die, thus ending his reign of madness.


The novel
A novel is a book of long narrative in literary prose. The genre has historical roots both in the fields of the medieval and early modern romance and in the tradition of the novella. The latter supplied the present generic term in the late 18th century....

 has been adapted for the screen several times, most notably as The Lady and the Monster
The Lady and the Monster
The Lady and the Monster is a film based on the horror novel Donovan's Brain by Curt Siodmak.-Plot:The film is about the attempts to keep alive the brain of a multimillionaire after his death, only to create a telepathic monster...

 (1944), Donovan's Brain
Donovan's Brain (film)
Donovan's Brain is a 1953 film, starring Lew Ayres, Gene Evans, and Nancy Reagan , based on the 1942 horror novel Donovan's Brain by Curt Siodmak.-Plot:...

 (1953), and The Brain
The Brain (1962 film)
The Brain is a 1962 film directed by Freddie Francis. It stars Anne Heywood and Janette Scott. A UK-West German production The Brain differs from earlier film versions of the Curt Siodmak novel Donovan's Brain: in this remake, the dead man seeks his own murderer, through contact with the doctor...


In 1982, the LP album release of the 1944 radio version of this story (from the series Suspense
Suspense (radio program)
-Production background:One of the premier drama programs of the Golden Age of Radio, was subtitled "radio's outstanding theater of thrills" and focused on suspense thriller-type scripts, usually featuring leading Hollywood actors of the era...

 and starring Orson Welles
Orson Welles
George Orson Welles , best known as Orson Welles, was an American film director, actor, theatre director, screenwriter, and producer, who worked extensively in film, theatre, television and radio...

) won the Grammy Award for Best Spoken Word Album
Grammy Award for Best Spoken Word Album
The Grammy Award for Best Spoken Word Album has been awarded since 1959. The award had several minor name changes:*In 1959 the award was known as Best Performance, Documentary or Spoken Word...


Influence and Imitations

Imitations of the story have included the Star Trek
Star Trek
Star Trek is an American science fiction entertainment franchise created by Gene Roddenberry. The core of Star Trek is its six television series: The Original Series, The Animated Series, The Next Generation, Deep Space Nine, Voyager, and Enterprise...

 episode "Spock's Brain" and the character of Uncle Irvin in The City of Lost Children
The City of Lost Children
The City of Lost Children is a dystopian French fantasy/drama film by Marc Caro and Jean-Pierre Jeunet released in 1995. The film is stylistically related to the previous and subsequent Jeunet films, Delicatessen and Amélie. It was entered into the 1995 Cannes Film Festival.-Plot:A mad scientist,...

, the 1995 fantasy film.

In the 1983 film The Man with Two Brains
The Man with Two Brains
The Man with Two Brains is a 1983 American science fiction comedy film directed by Carl Reiner and starring Steve Martin and Kathleen Turner....

, the protagonist Dr Michael Hfuhruhurr (played by Steve Martin
Steve Martin
Stephen Glenn "Steve" Martin is an American actor, comedian, writer, playwright, producer, musician and composer....

) claims that the film adaption of Donovan's Brain is his favourite film and later discovers a colleague who is able to keep brains alive in jars. Hfuhruhurr subsequently falls in love with one of the brains.

The title is satirized in an episode of Big Guy and Rusty the Boy Robot
Big Guy and Rusty the Boy Robot
The Big Guy and Rusty the Boy Robot is a 1995 comic book written by Frank Miller, drawn by Geof Darrow and published by Dark Horse Comics...

, called "Donovan's Brainiac", where the nephew of Dr. Donovan uses the brain of the Legion Ex Machina's Number Five in a robot he built for a science fair.

A reference to the title can also be found at the end of the Larry Niven
Larry Niven
Laurence van Cott Niven / ˈlæri ˈnɪvən/ is an American science fiction author. His best-known work is Ringworld , which received Hugo, Locus, Ditmar, and Nebula awards. His work is primarily hard science fiction, using big science concepts and theoretical physics...

 short story "Becalmed in Hell," in which the character Eric, who lives as a brain and spinal cord on life-support, and works as the directly connected controller of a NASA
The National Aeronautics and Space Administration is the agency of the United States government that is responsible for the nation's civilian space program and for aeronautics and aerospace research...

 exploratory vessel, signs a telegram "DONOVAN'S BRAIN".

Another influence that can be seen is in an episode of the 1960s TV Series The Avengers
The Avengers (TV series)
The Avengers is a spy-fi British television series set in the 1960s Britain. The Avengers initially focused on Dr. David Keel and his assistant John Steed . Hendry left after the first series and Steed became the main character, partnered with a succession of assistants...

. The mind of an evil genius is kept alive by repeatedly taking control of the mind and body of victims, a feat which is accomplished with the assistance of a mad scientist doctor and nurse. The evil genius uses mind control (along with a computer like contraption that keeps his brain alive in his otherwise dead body) and amplifies the power of his brain waves to control other people.

External links