When a private plane crashes, Dr. Peter Corrie (Peter van Eyck) and his associate Dr. Frank Shears (Bernard Lee) are summoned to render aid. Corrie and Shears are both doctors and scientists working on a project involving brain activity after death in their private laboratory and are the closest doctors to the site. Only one of the passengers is still alive. Believing that there isn’t enough time to take him to the hospital they rush back to the laboratory. Unfortunately the man dies. Seeing an opportunity to try their experiments on a human brain Corrie convinces Shears to remove the man’s brain. Later Corrie finds out that the brain belonged to a ruthless and wealthy financier named Max Holt.
Corrie receives a visit from the mortuary attendant Mr. Furber (Jack MacGowran). Furber knows that Holt’s brain went missing and he is not above a little blackmail. Corrie tosses the man out but Furber doesn’t go away for long. When Furber breaks into Corrie’s laboratory something happens between Furber and Holt’s brain. Furber is found dead. Without a good explanation Furber’s death is attributed to his coming in contact with an exposed wire from one of Corrie’s machines resulting in a heart attack. After all, the man did have a weak heart.
As for Holt, Corrie finds out that the man had a lot of enemies. Soon Holt’s brain begins to influence Corrie by using a telepathic connection. Before long, Corrie’s mannerisms change. In a trance he makes a list of names. Corrie is compelled to investigate Holt’s death. Believing the plane contained a bomb and that Holt was murdered Corrie becomes more involved in researching Holt’s life. Soon there are more murders and Corrie becomes both number one suspect and in danger of being added to the list of the dead.
“The Brain” was released in 1962 and was directed by Freddie Francis. It is a science fiction murder mystery with some horror aspects. The movie is loosely based on Curt Siodmak’s 1942 novel “Donovan’s Brain”. The film was a British, West German co-production that was done in both English and German. The German version was titled “Ein Toter sucht seinen Mörder“ or “A Dead Man Seeks His Murderer”.
This was a very interesting adaptation of Siodmak’s 1942 novel. It’s been criticized as turning a science fiction story into a crime novel. I rather liked that aspect of the film. Having seen both “Donovan’s Brain” 1953 and its other reincarnation “The Lady and the Monster” 1944, the change added a different element to the movie that the others didn’t.
Perhaps if I hadn’t seen the other versions of the story I would feel differently. As a mystery it’s actually decent. As a science fiction story then, yes, it would be disappointing. Having seen both of the previous films I have had my fill of disembodied brains taking over the mind of scientists and a nice little mystery was perfect for me.
The German version of the film contains a topless scene with Anne Heywood.