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Siodmak, Curt

(1902-2000) German author and film director based in Hollywood, whose first name was originally Kurt but was changed to Curt when he left Germany. He began to publish adult stories in Germany in 1924, and continued to write until his death, with a career spanning seventy-six years, one of the longest in sf (see Longevity in Writers). He sold several early sf stories which have yet to be translated, including "Welle Mensch" (February 1926 Scherl's Magazin). His first English-language publication was "The Eggs from Lake Tanganyika" (April 1926 Scherl's Magazin as "Die Eier vom Tanganjikasee"; July 1926 Amazing). Though he trained and initially worked as a railway engineer, Siodmak became a journalist and film reporter, serving as an extra on Metropolis (1926) in order to secure an interview with Fritz Lang. He entered the film industry in 1929 as a screen-writer working sometimes with his elder brother Robert Siodmak (1900-1973) who became a prominent director. Amongst his more significant early films is F.P.1 Antwortet Nicht (1932; vt F.P.1 Doesn't Answer; based on his own novel F.P.1 Antwortet Nicht [25 October-6 December 1930 Die Woche; 1931; trans H W Farrel as F.P.1 Does not Reply 1933; vt F.P.1 Fails to Reply 1933 UK]) which concerns sabotage to a mid-Atlantic way-station.

Before emigrating in 1933 (first to England and then, in 1937, to the USA where he became a naturalized citizen in 1943) Siodmak had six novels published in Germany, of which F.P.1 Does Not Reply was the only one translated into English. Four of the others could be classified as thrillers with a scientific element such as Rache im Äther ["Revenge in Space"] (1932), an otherwise routine melodrama of aerial vengeance which incorporates the use of a laser.

His novels in English, aside from Donovan's Brain (September-November 1942 Black Mask; 1943) – his most interesting, featuring an artificially preserved Brain in a Box which develops the baleful Psi Power of mind control – include its belated sequels Hauser's Memory (1968), a story about a kind of Identity Transfer that was filmed as Hauser's Memory (1970), and Gabriel's Body (1992). All three of these novels feature the biochemist Dr Patrick Cory. Skyport (1959) deals with the construction of the first Space Station in the form of a hotel, The Third Ear (1971) is about the discovery of Psi Powers, and City in the Sky (1974) deals with rebellion in a Prison satellite, a Space Station orbiting the eponymous Macrostructure. Riders to the Stars (1953) was published as by Siodmak and Robert Smith, but Siodmak's only connection with it was the original screenplay. All of his novels develop a strong atmosphere but are usually thin on characterization and plot.

Siodmak has 35 movie credits in the USA and 18 in Europe; his US screenplays (some co-authorships) include The Invisible Man Returns (1940) (for this and other Invisibility films below see The Invisible Man), The Ape (1940), Black Friday (1940; vt Friday the Thirteenth), The Invisible Woman (1940), Invisible Agent (1942), The Wolf Man (1942), Son of Dracula (1943), Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man (1943), I Walked with a Zombie (1943), House of Frankenstein (1944), The Lady and the Monster (1944) – based on his novel Donovan's Brain, subsequently filmed again as Donovan's Brain (1953) and Vengeance (1963; vt The Brain), and Parodied in The Man with Two Brains (1983) – The Beast with Five Fingers (1946), Tarzan's Magic Fountain (1949), Riders to the Stars (1953) and Creature with the Atom Brain (1955). He also wrote the story for Earth vs. the Flying Saucers (1956; vt Invasion of the Flying Saucers). Later in his career he also directed films, generally rather badly, including Bride of the Gorilla (1951), The Magnetic Monster (1953), Curucu, Beast of the Amazon (1956) and Tales of Frankenstein (1958), the last being a pilot for an unmade Television series.

Although often involved with sf-oriented subjects, Siodmak never displayed much understanding for the genre: like other German film-makers of his generation, he was more at home with the Gothic – the supernatural, the macabre and the grotesque – than with science, and such science as he introduced, despite apparently consulting leading scientists, tended to be for picturesque atmosphere. [JB/PN/MA/DRL]

see also: Cyborgs; ESP; Psychology; Transportation.

Curt or Kurt Siodmak

born Dresden, Germany: 10 August 1902

died Three Rivers, California: 2 September 2000



Dr Patrick Cory

individual titles



Entry from The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction (2011-current) edited by John Clute and David Langford.
Accessed 10:48 am on 24 February 2024.