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Life Returns

Entry updated 4 April 2017. Tagged: Film.

Film (1935). Scienart Pictures/Universal Pictures. Produced by Lou L Ostrow. Directed by Eugene Frenke and James P Hogan (not the sf author). Written by L Wolfe Gilbert, John F Goodrich, Arthur T Horman and Mary McCarthy, from a story by Hogan. Cast includes George P Breakston, Valerie Hobson, Onslow Stevens and Lois Wilson. 63 minutes, sometimes cut to 60 minutes. Black and white.

Dr John Kendrick (Stevens) has spent his life working on a method of reviving the dead (see Medicine); Dr Louise Stone (Wilson) is a friend and colleague who helps him for a time, until Kendrick is fired by his medical-institute employer for refusing to pursue more practical research. Moving into private practice, he continues his work while neglecting and losing all his patients. His wife (Hobson) becomes ill and dies, driving him into such despair and poverty that the courts decide to take away their son Danny (Breakston). But Danny runs away and joins a group of other young boys in the area, who help him hide from the police. His dog is caught by local animal control and sent to the dog pound, as animal shelters were then known. The boys attempt and fail to rescue the dog, leading the callous directors of the animal shelter to have the animal euthanized. Danny begs his father to revive the dog with his experimental procedure; he finally agrees and obtains the animal's body. The experiment proves a success; Kendrick's work is justified and he will return to successful medical practice.

This odd film was based on the real-life experiments of Dr Robert Cornish (1903-1963), who appears as himself – along with his medical team – in footage of the supposed revival of a deceased dog in May 1934. Unfortunately Life Returns is not very good, in places resembling one of Hal Roach's short "Our Gang" comedies, with the sf elements evident only at the climax. This may have been Valerie Hobson's first film credit, and provided one of the few leading roles for character actor Onslow Stevens. [GSt]


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