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Man Who Changed His Mind, The (1936)

Courtesy of ITV Global Entertainment

Main image of Man Who Changed His Mind, The (1936)
35mm, 66 min, black & white
DirectorRobert Stevenson
Production CompanyGainsborough Pictures
ScreenplayL. Dugarde Peach
 Sidney Gilliat
 John L. Balderston
PhotographyJack Cox

Cast: Boris Karloff (Dr Laurience); Anna Lee (Dr Clare Wyatt); John Loder (Dick Haslewood); Frank Cellier (Lord Haslewood); Donald Calthrop (Clayton)

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An eminent brain specialist is ridculed when he claims that he can transfer 'thought content' from the brain of one animal to another. In an attempt to prove his critics wrong, he begins experimenting on humans, setting forth a train of events that leads to murder.

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The Man Who Changed His Mind (d. Robert Stevenson, 1936) is a film that is in two minds itself - despite being predominantly horrific in nature, it has the trappings of science fiction, and a love story primarily designed to soften the more unsavoury parts of the picture for a female audience.

This willingness to draw in women was also reflected in the casting of Anna Lee as Dr Claire Wyatt. Her headstrong, independent character was a sign of the new roles becoming available for actresses in the 1930s, and of the growing importance of the female audience to film producers of the period.

Despite Dr Wyatt's individualism, however, the worries of her male counterparts are confirmed by the end, in a subtle warning to female viewers that they should be wary of becoming too independent.

The rest of the cast are uniformly excellent, with Boris Karloff in one of the first roles to give him substantial dialogue and no elaborate make-up. Impressively, Donald Calthrop (Clayton), Frank Cellier (Haselwood) and John Loder (Dick) are all required to play two parts, firstly as their own characters and secondly as the people whose minds they have swapped with.

The film is also technically exceptional, and was the result of some of Gaumont's most respected personnel. Cinematographer Jack Cox (a long-time associate of Alfred Hitchcock) uses light and camera movement to great effect.

Sidney Gilliat (who would soon embark on a long and successful partnership with Frank Launder) brought his trademark humour to a script originally conceived by John Balderston, who had penned Universal's The Bride of Frankenstein (US, d. James Whale, 1935).

The Frankenstein influence is also evident in the design of Lorenz's laboratory by Alex Vetchinsky, which perfectly encapsulates the prevailing interest of the decade in science and its methods. Innovations like the creation of the national grid and the increasing affordability of new kitchen appliances had a tremendous impact in bringing science into the everyday lives of ordinary people.

In fact, to quote Gaumont's own advertising for the film, this production reflected the recent invasion of 'Science in the Kitchen', which brought women into direct contact with technology. However, it is clear from this film that there were concerns about the ability to keep both women and science in check.

Paul Moody

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Video Clips
1. The woman who knew her mind (2:18)
2. Breakthrough (4:12)
3. Laughing stock (2:04)
4. The perfect murder (3:36)
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