The Man Who Lived Again (1936) A forgotten British Gem from Gainsborough Pictures, was released on Sept. 11, 1936
it is also known as The Man Who Changed His Mind or by its US title Dr. Maniac Who Lived Again, or Dr. Maniac. Directed by Robert Stevenson.
Starring a chain-smoking Boris Karloff and pairing him with Anna Lee playing Dr. Clara Wyatt, Lee who would 10 years later co-star alongside him again as antagonists in the intensely riveting horror/noir film Bedlam (1946) Directed by Mark Robson and produced and scripted by the great man of shadow plays Val Lewton.
Anna Lee and Boris Karloff in Mark Robson’s/Val Lewton’s masterpiece Bedlam
Karloff plays Dr. Laurience a once brilliant and revered brain surgeon, turned renegade scientist, shunned by the scientific community, for his esoteric and profane ideas about the human brain. Dr. Laurience has created a way to transpose the mind of one person and place it into the body of another. In other words, Soul Transference. A very sacrilegious concept for his fellow scientists to support, without believing that Laurience is utterly insane. In this film, Karloff adheres more to the persona of the gruff Mad Scientist, rather than some of his other sympathetic roles as the misdirected man of science who meets with various obstructions and the unfortunate string of events. For instance, the kindly and altruistic Dr John Garth who is on death row for a mercy killing, in Before I Hang (1940)
The fabulous Musical Direction by Louis Levy and Art Direction by Vetchinksky has a charmingly nostalgic streak of that early 1930s milieu of the sinister.
Also starring is Cecil Parker as Dr. Gratton and Lyn Harding as Professor Holloway.
The film opens with several surgeons finishing up an operation, taking off their surgical gowns, one such to expose that of a female surgeon. As it is Dr. Clara Wyatt’s last surgery with her colleagues, they are saying their goodbyes.
Dr. Gratton warns Clare Wyatt after this, their last operation together, she is “Going into the wilds to work for a mad brain specialist.” This pertains to Dr Laurience who has sent for Dr Wyatt to come and be his new assistant.
Clare corrects Gratton, “eccentric.”… She is told by another colleague, “After all his record is a little unorthodox.” But Clare Wyatt assures them that it wasn’t so when she worked with Dr. Laurience in Genoa and that he has done brilliant work.
Yet, Gratton continues to inform Clare that they threw Laurience out of Genoa, and insists that in the past 3 years, his ideas became impossible and that there is something ‘queer’ about him now. She assures Dr Gratton, that there’s always something ‘queer’ about a genius.
While Clare starts to pack, Dick walks in and tells her that he’s been doing some background checking on Laurience and he’s “not the sure of thing a young girl should know”. He’s arrived in England with a couple of monkeys and claims he’s discovering
‘The Human Soul’…
John Loder plays Dick Haslewood, Clare’s fiance, who doesn’t trust this new arrangement with the strange Dr. Laurience, and despite Clare’s independent streak and insistence on going to work alone with her old college with the now notorious reputation, he stubbornly follows her to the mysterious Manor house to keep an eye on his girl.
Clare tells Dick that he wrote and asked her to go, and so she’s going. And asks her to stay there and marry him, that she needs someone to look after her, but she tells him sorry, but she specialized in looking after herself. Not only is she a brilliant medical scientist in a man’s field, but independent as well.
Dick says to Clara, “How I hate strong-minded women” This he asserts with a playful cheer, smiles at the underlying truth at the heart of his displeasure.
Dick shows up at the train station and surprises Clare, but she insists on going off to Laurience’s house by herself.
Dick stranded in his raincoat, hands in pockets yells from the platform, “If the monkeys eat you, don’t blame me!”
For a time, Dr Laurience had remained reclusive, financed by Lord Haslewood (Frank Cellier) who runs a newspaper, and believes that supporting scientific research makes for good news headlines.
Laurience conducts his work, hold up in an imposing and decrepit manor house, working on his experiments with at first primates, assisted by Clayton (Donald Calthrop) a misanthropic paralytic curmudgeon who is on borrowed time due to a fatal, degenerating brain tumor.
Laurence has finally sent for an assistant, the lovely Dr. Clare Wyatt ( Anna Lee) whom he worked with in Genoa. Rather than utilize an experienced scientist who would most likely shun his experiments, he is excited and hopeful that it will be Dr. Wyatt’s open-minded search for the truth, and her youthful exploration of scientific discovery that will help him with his research into the human brain/mind connection.
Clayton approached the front door, looking like a trapped insect.
As soon as Dr. Wyatt arrives at the Manor house, Clayton seems agitated by the presence of this woman.
Clayton tells Laurience “I don’t like women” Laurience argues that he needs the help and that she’s a scientist!
Clayton argues ” But why choose women?… A female scientist (he scowls) all tears and hysterics and can’t keep a secret.”
Laurience waves a flashlight at Clayton, “She wanted to work with me, and she’s going to!”
Laurience places his trust in the young Dr.Wyatt, who is eager to work alongside this once greatly respected scientist, ignoring all the rumors and slanderous rumblings she hears from her colleagues in the scientific community she will be leaving behind, to join Laurience out of great respect for the man.
Dr.Clare Wyatt arrives at Laurience’s mysterious Manor house veiled in a gloomy mist, the sounds of several dogs howling off in the distance, sounding half dead with weak ferocity. Stone steps lead to a shambled, ivy-overgrowth facade, she pulls the bell to summon someone to greet her at the door. Peeking through the window she sees Clayton rolling up toward the door in his wheelchair. He appears more bug-like than a man.
“The name is Clayton…one of the Doctor’s more hopeless cases!”
She is greeted by this unsavory character who is not very welcoming at all. He tells her about his ‘‘inter-cranial cyst, rare and very curious.”
He antagonizes her into admitting her knowledge of medicine. “But I thought, “ Clayton interrupts her, ” Go on say it!”
Clare continues ” I thought that was always fatal?”
“Most of me IS dead…The rest of me is damned.” As he wheels himself around in his wooden cage of a chair. “Dr. Laurience manages to keep the residue alive, the why is his own affair.”
Clare tells him that she’s terribly sorry. He points toward a large wooden door, where Laurience is, Clayton’s body language paints him restricted and contorted in mind as well as physically, a sour thrust of indignation. He does not like the presence of this female doctor. He sits staring off, as if about to spit out acid like a snake about to strike each word readied with venom.
At first happy to see her old mentor, Laurience comes from around the lab equipment, dragging on his cigarette, they hold hands, then he quickly turns and gazes at himself in the mirror.
Suddenly, Laurience quivers, “You’re thinking that I’ve changed, We’ll I have changed!…the leading authority on the human brain until I told them something about their own brain!”
“Then they said I was mad” Grabbing at his silvery streaked hair, a gentleness comes back through his demeanor. Smiling now at Clare
“Look at me…am I mad?”
Now Clayton rolls into the room and interrupts “Is she to have a room?” sounding like a jealous wife.
Laurience tells Clare to take any room she pleases. Clare asks “Haven’t you a housekeeper?”
“Only Clayton and you’ve seen him”, to which Clayton replies “And she was not amused!”
Dr. Clare Wyatt will follow without fear…
Clare asks why did you send for me, you might have had an experienced scientist, but Dr. Laurience defends his decision.
“I don’t want experienced scientists, their minds are set, like trains they run only to the Terminis and back again to the beginning….but I remembered you in Genoa, you were so young, a child, but you had faith in what was new and courage to face things….and now you shall work with me here and I shall show you strange things about the mind of man…”
He puts his hands on her shoulders, in a paternal, pedagogical gesture…” You will follow me here without fear?”
She answers him…her face lit with a gloriole of light, a neophyte with a glowing effervescence surrounding her youthful beam, she whispers softly, “Without fear.”
“A great scientist washing a pot of coffee.” The snide Clayton sarcastically extols.
Clare cannot escape her role as a woman, although she is a trained medical scientist. The intimation that now that there was a woman in the house, although Clare is a trained medical doctor, a colleague, and Laurience’s pier, she can still be reduced to a female who needs taking care of ( in Dick’s eyes) and is expected to take care of the men of the manor house.
“A Great Scientist’s assistant washing out a coffee pot!” Clare replies to Clayton, ” You didn’t like me coming here very much” He comes back quickly, “You don’t like me.” But she misses nothing, “I’m sorry for you.” Clayton in his venomous tone responds…”I wonder which revolts you most, my miserable body or my perverted mind.”
Clare looks down at a china cup. “You think well why doesn’t Laurience let him die…well I’ll tell you. Because I’m the only person who understands him.” Clare quickly retorts “I, understand him.”
Clayton looks shocked and condescends to her, “You understand Laurience?” A sneer breaks his already sour expression. ” One day you’ll realize how little you do.”
The scene crossfades to the front page article of a local newspaper item:
Mystery Scientist Sets Village Whispering – secret experiments in the sinister manor house
Clare greets Dick at the front door when he shows up unexpectedly and promises that she’ll come back as soon as she’s done with her work. She also digs him that he doesn’t like any real serious work for himself. On the contrary, he hands her a newspaper, so that she can read the article that he has written about the notable Dr Laurience.
Clare brings it to the breakfast table and starts to read it and a look of shock comes over her face, Clayton had just been remarking to Laurience that this was the first time he’s seen him take any interest in food since, he’s been there. Laurience tells him it’s the first time there’s been any.
Laurience ushers Clare to come back to work and sees her reading the newspaper, he asks “What’s wrong?”, she closes the newspaper quickly so Dr Laurience doesn’t see the headline that Dick has written. She tells him “Nothing!” and carelessly sets the paper down so that Clayton can get his hands on it.
Clayton brings the newspaper into the lab and says to Laurience, “This may amuse you” He accuses Clayton of telling the reporter all this, but Clayton denies it saying why should he do it. “How should I know, your mind is as twisted as your body!…don’t forget if I leave out just one injection”
” I don’t mind dying, but to be accused of saying this” He wheels himself away with indignation at his back. It is that female scientist who has come between them.
End of the scene, Fade in.
“A human brain…a brain like the one in here!” The Same color appearance, everything with one difference….the thoughts in the brain, the personality, the mind, are all missing”
Clare comments “The brain is dead.” Laurience tells her, ” That means only this, that what I call the thought content of the brain is gone forever…until now it has never been possible to, to as it were…extract the thought content of the brain from a living brain and leave it alive, but empty.” Clare looks shaken, but Laurience continues, “I can do it. I can take the thought content from the mind of a living animal, and store it as you would store electricity”
Clayton is serenading the atmosphere by playing a classical melody on the piano in the background, still paying attention to Laurience’s conversation with Clare.
Then Laurience walks into the lab and comes back holding the paw of a sweet docile chimpanzee in a white lab coat.
He seats him in a wooden chair and puts a cap with electrodes sprouting out of it. Laurience sings “See he likes it, to him it’s just like going to sleep.”
After the great whirring of machinery and vacuum hoses and pumps and electrodes crackling and firing off arcs of light, “He’s alive and well, but his mind is in there.” Referring to the glass container with the tubes and electrodes hooked into it.
Clare remarks, “You say it is, but it’d look just the same under an anesthetic” Laurience turns to look at Dr. Clara Wyatt. She asks him ”How could you prove it?”
“Would it prove it if I could take THIS mind and put it in the body of another animal?”
“Of course” she smiles, “But you can’t.”
He tells her, “Tonight, I’m going to try for the first time.”
Clayton is now done scoring this little scientific interlude on piano, he turns to see Clara’s reaction. He is an unhappy, sadist, who resents her presence. His playing was partly for annoyance, and partly to listen in on what is transpiring between Laurience and his new assistant.
Laurience fetches another chimpanzee, this one not dressed in white. Apparently a very aggressive chimp in comparison to the sweet nature of the former chimp who pickpocketed Laurience’s jacket for sweets.
“Now, the mind of the one ape is there” He points to the large glass container. We see the long rods that pulsed up and down, as Laurience pulled the levers and drained the thought energy from the kindly chimp, pouring it into the mechanical glass vessel.
He tells Clara that he is now reversing the connection. A great noise like a cyclone envelopes the room as the two chimpanzees, hooked up to electrodes are supposedly having the very substance of their minds transplanted into each other’s brains.
The chimp who was so obviously aggressive earlier picks Laurience’s pocket just as the first gentle chimp had done. This is to let us know that the experiment of thought transference has been a success!
“Their minds have been changed over!…does that prove it!” Laurience is charged.
“Each has got the mind of the other, the personality, the likes, the dislikes, the things that if they were human beings we would call…the soul!”
” If they were human beings????!!! Clara cries out.
Laurience screams back at Clara...”Why Not!!!!!”She tells him “You can’t do that!”
He utters a dark and completely sinister phrase, thinking out loud…only to himself.
“No…no, I can’t do that” He looks away, and the scene fades to black….
Watch the rest of The Man Who Lived Again!!! To see what Dr. Laurience has planned next, and will the next experiment be on a human subject?
Happy Thoughts! MonsterGirl