Monday, March 7, 2016

Life Returns - 1935

Here is one I wasn't going to review.  I didn't add it cause I was thinking about it days later, no way, not that either.  Added it cause I still want to include as many from the Sci Fi Invasion boxset as possible, in my attempt to watch and review all 50.  So, my second oldest film on the blog (?) I think.

 If you spend enough time on the internet, it's pretty nuts what you can find.  I am not someone out there googling the weirdest shit I can think of either.  However, I had heard of this story before, and that's because this movie Life Returns is based on the "true" story of a happening in the early 20th century.  I say true in quotations because the story was never verified to complete satisfaction and cannot be proved.

In 1934 or so, Robert E. Cornish made headlines and made heads turn when he supposedly brought back to life dogs that had been killed.  Here's the info on it.  The way he proved this was not just his word for it was that he filmed the surgery.  But with only the film, that was not good enough, since obviously film at that point could be edited, could be altered, manipulated etc.  The film is online, check it out here.  Point is, this was obviously a big deal regardless.  So what better way to capitalize on these recent headlines than to make a movie about it?

Little boy Danny found a dog.  Let's start the plot there.  Moreover, he has a dog that isn't especially well trained, and there are dog catchers loose in his city right now.  Danny is naturally afraid for his pup, and he does whatever he can to protect his dog.  In the meantime, Dr. Cornish has gone from promising scientist to under-utilized employee at his place of business.  So he talks to the dog catchers and they promise him a dog he can experiment with.  You can probably see where this is going now.

At barely over an hour long, this movie was made with hardly even a thought.  It's like they took the footage of Cornish experimenting on dogs and said, okay, let's set this up with a thin story about who these people are and how the dog ended up on the table.  Then they filmed the bare necessities.  Then the big pay-off, which is the dog surgery.  They took the real footage Cornish had filmed of his dog experimentation, and they simply edited in reaction shots of the child actor and various other people.  Voila! It's a movie!  Funny enough, by allowing this to happen, wasn't Cornish kind of admitting that his footage might be fake?  Like sure, you can use my "real" footage in a total piece of fiction film!  I know it's barely a year after my experiments, but I'm sure they'll get proven in no time.

The movie is filmed in pretty shitty quality and certainly has nothing besides the surgery at the end to make it stand out.  The rest of the movie is pretty much a drama/real life story kinda a thing, it's not that it's boring or tedious, it just seems very pointless.  If you're going to make a film with experimenting-on-dead-dog footage, couldn't you at least make it a horror film?  I guess the point was to make us sympathetic with the boy - he loves his dog, so we should want the scientists to bring the dog back, and thus we should support the experiments.  I have to wonder then, if this was made at the request of the doctors?  There is surprisingly little information on the film and on the man Dr. Cornish himself considering the bizarre story here.

As a film, gimmick aside, it's relatively pointless but harmless.  With the experimentation footage put on the end, it feels slightly surreal and very exploitative, so that didn't really work.  Also, it's kinda hard to watch even for a non-dog lover.  It's basically next to watching animal torture.  So I guess my point is, there's very little reason to watch this.  But for interest factor and linear plot, I guess it can have 1.5 stars.

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