9 September 2006 | Bunuel1976
THE MAN WHO CHANGED HIS MIND (Robert Stevenson, 1936) ***
Star Boris Karloff's second British horror film, following THE GHOUL (1933), proves a more satisfying vehicle and quite an underrated (if minor) classic; apart from director Stevenson (later to helm some of the Walt Disney studio's most popular live-action films), its imposing credentials include producer Michael Balcon (one of the most influential in British cinema) and co-screenwriters John L. Balderston (a genre fixture who had worked on some of Hollywood's finest entries) and Sidney Gilliat (later a Hitchcock collaborator and an important film-maker in his own right, often teamed with Frank Launder)!
Production-wise, it's a modest effort mostly confined to studio interiors but one which, in its brief running-time, exhibits both style and substance in a gripping (if familiar) plot line that manages to encompass drama, comedy, romance, chills and suspense! Incidentally, the transference of souls from one body to another was also the theme of THE BROTHERHOOD OF Satan (1971) which I just happened to watch the previous day where it's given an occult slant, as opposed to the sci-fi approach of the Karloff film!!
In fact, the star's 'mad scientist' character here (named Laurience but pronounced Lorenz!) was the second in a string of similar roles he played from 1936-1942; I've only watched the first two and the last one but I have two more coming up tomorrow and the day after, while the rest will be released as part of Columbia's Karloff set next month! Anyway, he's excellent as always driven, menacing or poignant as the situation demands but he's ably supported by a wonderful British cast: Anna Lee (the director's own wife and with whom Karloff would reteam, memorably, in Hollywood in the Val Lewton-produced BEDLAM ), John Loder, Frank Cellier, Cecil Parker and especially Donald Calthrop; the latter almost manages to steal the show with his crippled and cynical doctor's assistant, whose brain is then put into Cellier's body: the scenes where he tries to act up his new persona provide some delightful and unexpected moments of black comedy!
As usual, Karloff's love for the leading lady is unrequited (though she sure admires his genius!) and he concocts an elaborate plan to win her affections which, needless to say, is thwarted in the final reel. In fact, the film's climax (in which Karloff and Loder, having switched brains, attempt an impersonation of one another and then the process has to be reversed in order to save the hero's life, Karloff having thrown himself in Loder's body from a window to escape police capture!) is somewhat far-fetched but nonetheless exciting. The DVD transfer is acceptable for such a rare item, with the only negative note being some persistent hiss on the soundtrack.