While not a great film, Donovan's Brain takes itself seriously and, despite featuring a giant, pulsating brain in an aquarium, manages to pull it off. This success can be laid square on the shoulders of Lew Ayres. He plays Dr. Corey, a not-that-mad scientist who, when he fails to save a man injured in a plane crash, decides to yank the corpse's still-sort-of-alive brain out for an experiment. Turns out he's perfected a method of keeping a brain alive indefinitely. There's one problem: this disembodied brain, formerly belonging to a not-so-nice millionaire, figures out it can take control of Corey's body remotely. Donovan's brain proceeds to puppet the doctor around town, reacquiring his fortune, threatening public officials and disowning his children.
Ayres does an excellent job with the transitions from the serious-though-pleasant Corey to asshole-of-the-year Donovan. You're never quite sure which personality is speaking until Ayres slowly lets the mystery slip through body language or vocal inflection. It's a great performance. The rest of the film isn't quite up to that standard, though I did get a kick out seeing the former first lady as Corey's wife.
Watched: stream on Netflix.