Welcome to the final day of Horror Half-Week, and happy Halloween! We’ve worked our way back in time and today will be taking a look at a horror flick from the 1930s. Previous posts in this year’s Horror Half-Week celebration:
The 1960s – Favorite things about… Night of the Living Dead
The 1950s – The Screaming Skull
The 1940s – Strangler of the Swamp
Dr. Laurience (Boris Karloff) was at one time a well-respected scientist. Now, accused of being “mad,” he’s become a bit of a hermit.
Laurience has decided to begin researching the human mind and soul in his isolated estate, which – like the house of any mad scientist – comes complete with a lab. He’s assisted by inexperienced-but-promising surgeon Dr. Clare Wyatt (Anna Lee) and another accomplice named Clayton (Donald Calthrop).
Their work attracts the attention of a newspaper, which hires Laurience on to publish about the human brain and do research in a much fancier lab owned by a scientific institute connected with the newspaper.
Laurience’s work is rejected by the scientific community, but that does nothing to pull the brakes on his obsession. Rather than give up, he decides to continue carrying out experiments, even going so far as to complete brain transfers on humans.
When he gets his hands on Lord Haslewood (Frank Cellier), a rich philanthropist/press man, and replaces his brain with that of his devoted follower Clayton, there may be nothing that can stop Dr. Laurience.
Robert Stevenson (director of Mary Poppins, of all films!) helms 1936’s The Man Who Changed His Mind, also known as The Man Who Lived Again. This film is in the public domain, available on the Internet Archive in a decent 62-minute print.
I was hoping I’d be able to provide a glowing review for this film and end Horror Half-Week on a high note, but I guess three fun films in a row were too many for the universe to throw at me. The Man Who Changed His Mind isn’t a bad film, but it isn’t a great one either.
Boris Karloff’s performance is great, as usual, and without a doubt the film’s best element. I can think of only a handful of people who can pull off a mad scientist character as successfully as Karloff did on a consistent basis. And what a face. He’s just a delight to watch. A very captivating performer, even in a minor, somewhat forgotten film like this one.
The rest of the cast leaves a bit to be desired. Anna Lee is kind of stiff at times as surgeon Clare, who works with Laurience. Her dialogue delivery is not the most natural and she doesn’t play particularly well off of any of her co-stars. One stand-out member of the supporting cast is Frank Cellier, who plays both the real Haslewood and the brain-switched Haslewood incredibly well.
On the plus side, along with the performances of Karloff and Cellier, is the set design of the lab, which is great. Everything is electric and very sophisticated.
I was very intrigued by the plot of the film, what with the brain-switching and the revenge-driven scientist. It doesn’t really live up to the promise it holds, though, which contributes most of my disappointment. In the first half of the film there are a few dull scenes, and it’s a tad slow-moving.
Things pick up nicely after Laurience is made a laughing stock during his presentation about brain transfers, but I wish this change of pace would have come sooner, so more time could have been spent exploring the effects and consequences of Laurience’s experiments. Some humor is brought in by Clayton trying to fill the shoes of Haslewood, which lends the film a touch more enjoyability, but it isn’t enough to make up for the sluggish first half hour.
The Man Who Changed His Mind is a middle-of-the-road scientific thriller. I’d recommend this only to devotees of Karloff. The score: 2/5