Small House of Everything

Small House of Everything

Thursday, April 14, 2016


From Suspense comes the two-part radio adaptation of Donovan's Brain, featuring Orson Welles.

This story of a scientist who manages to keep the brain of a meglomaniac millionaire alive after a plane crash first appeared as a 1942 novel by Curt Siodmak, who was noted for having invented much of today's popular werewolf lore when he wrote the original script for Universal Studios The Wolfman.  The novel became a cult classic and was adapted three times for the movies:  The Lady and the Monster (1943), Donovan's Brain (1953), and The Brain (1962).  When a recording of this 1944 radio version was released as an album, it won a Grammy for Best Spoken Word Album.

Donovan's Brain first aired on Suspense on May 18 (Part One) and May 25, 1944 (Part Two).  Produced and directed by William Spier, it featured (in addition to Welles) Hans Conreid, Jerry Hausner, John McIntire, and Jeanette Nolan.  This two-parter was Suspense's first foray into science fiction.  (A second version airing as an hour-long episode on Suspense on February 7, 1947, starred McIntire, Nolan, William Johnstone, and Wally Maher.)

The influence of Donovan's Brain in popular culture is wide-spread, from Star Trek ("Spock's Brain") to Dr. Who ("The Brain of Morbius') to The Simpsons ("The Treehouse of Horror IX").  References to it appeared in DC Comics ("The Brain," a recurring villain), Wonder Woman (an episode called "Gault's Brain"), a Beastie Boys song ("Dropping Names"), and stories by Larry Nien and by Stephen King among others.  Siomak also wrote a sequel of sorts to Donovan's Brain, 1968's Hauser's Memory.

The author, Curt Siodmak, was a fascinating character.  Born in the Jewish section of Krakow in 1902, Siodmak moved to Germany where he received a degree in mathematics.  He began writing novels and invested the money he made in a film which was co-directed by his brother, Robert Siodmak, and Edgar G. Ulmer, with a screenplay co-written by Billy Wilder.  Talk about your screen legends!

More books, stories, and screenplays followed, including F.P.1 Antwortet Nicht (F.P.1 Doesn't Answer) (1932), which became a popular movie featuring Peter Lorre.

After hearing an anti-Semetic rant from Joseph Goebbels, Siodmak emigrated to England, then -- in 1937 -- to the United States, where he became noted for his horror and science fiction work in the movies:  The Invisible Man Returns, Black Friday, I Walked with a Zombie, Son of Dracula, House of Frankenstein, The Beast with Five Fingers, Tarzan and the Magic Fountain,  Bride of the Gorilla, The Magnetic Monster, and many others.  Siodmak credited his success to Adolph Hitler -- saying, in effect, "If it wasn't for that son of a bitch, I never would have left Germany."  So many of the films that formed my childhood came from Curt Siodmak's imagination that I'm tempted to repeat a line from anonther, completely different, movie:  "Thank you, Adolph!"

Enjoy the original tale of a disembodied brain that can control others.

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