A Film Rumination: The Man Who Changed His Mind (variant titles: The Man Who Lived Again, Brainsnatcher, Dr. Maniac), Robert Stevenson (1936)
June 7, 2011 § Leave a Comment
Boris Karloff! Mind transplants! Headstrong female scientists! 30s sci-fi horror! A watchable yet seldom seen film! What’s not to like?
The Man Who Changed His Mind (1936) is the second Robert Stevenson (later of Disney fame), Anna Lee, and John Loder feature I’ve seen — the first, Non-Stop New York (1937) wasn’t nearly as good — I’ll chalk that up to the absence of Boris Karloff!
Brief Plot Summary (limited spoilers)
A young brain surgeon Clare Wyatt (a feisty Anna Lee) sets off to work with the once respectable scientist Dr. Laurience (Boris Karloff). Her journalist love interest Dick (John Loder) attempts to follower her but is strongly rebuffed. The typical gender roles have been switched — the headstrong woman is usually the journalist and the male love interest usually the scientist. Dr. Laurience lives in a crumbling manor with his chimpanzees and a wheelchair bound patient/assistant Clayton (Donald Calthrop). Clayton is suspicious of female scientists and women in general (“all hysterics and can’t keep a secret”) however Dr. Laurience picked her because she is brilliant in her field.
Dr. Laurience has achieved a scientific breakthrough — he’s able to extract the thought content of the brain and “store it as one stores electricity.” In a visually interesting sequence, Dr. Laurience removes the brain of a chimpanzee with a large mechanical contraption (queue electricity currents!) and stores it in a container. In order to prove his theory he decides to transfer the chimpanzee’s stored thought content into another animal.
Of course, the doctor eventually wants to switch human minds! Human immortality!
Meanwhile, Dick’s journalistic endeavors in regards to uncovering the true nature of the manor have brought him to the attention of his father, the Lord Haslewood who offers Dr. Laurience a top-quality laboratory to continue his work. Problems crop up when Dr. Laurience is scoffed at by the scientific community and is fired from the institute by Haslewood who feels humiliated. The sinister Doctor suffers a breakdown and invites Lord Haslewood to the laboratory and… well… watch and find out!
This is vintage Boris Karloff in a seldom seen gem! He’s scary and he can act–for example, the mental breakdown sequence is top-notch as is his relatively stable beginning persona and of course the crazy man second half.
The Man Who Changed His Mind is fast-paced unadulterated British sci-fi horror fun. The film never drags, in part because of Anna Lee’s exuberance, and somewhat surprisingly, portrays female scientists in a mostly positive light. The cinematography is competent and on occasion above average (for example, Dr. Laurience’s lecture sequence to scientific community).
A must see for fans of 1930s sci-fi horror, the crazy rantings and ravings of Boris Karloff, and cinephiles in general….
Available to stream at the Internet Movie Archive for free (HERE)