powered by AFI
Professor Franz Mueller, who has built an elaborate laboratory in a castle in the Arizona desert, is obsessed with his experiments on brain tissue. Mueller contends that the human brain can be kept alive after a person's death, and that the person's knowledge can be passed on to later generations. Assisting Mueller in his experiments are scientist Patrick Cory and Mueller's ward, Czechoslovakian-American Janice Farrell. Although Janice and Cory are in love, Mueller has feelings for Janice and takes advantage of Cory's devotion to his work to keep the young couple apart. One night, a small plane crashes in the desert, and investigating rangers ask Mueller to care for the surviving passenger at his home until the arrival of Dr. Martin. When Martin arrives, he declares the man dead, then leaves after saying that someone will collect the body in the morning. Using his electograph equipment, Mueller determines that the brain in the deceased man is still alive and, with Cory's help, removes it and places it in a special container. Upon looking through the dead man's effects, they discover that he was William H. Donovan, a well-known, ruthless financier. The next morning, Mrs. Chloe Donovan and her lawyer, Eugene Fulton, visit Mueller's castle, where they question him about Donovan's last words. Mueller maintains that Donovan died without regaining consciousness, but Fulton is suspicious and decides to remain in Arizona to investigate. Meanwhile, Janice begs Cory to leave with her, but he insists on continuing the experiment with Donovan's brain, which is still alive. Fulton discovers that Mueller has the brain but decides to let him continue his work, as Donovan left Chloe penniless, and she and Fulton, who are lovers, hope to learn where Donovan hid his fortune. As time passes, Mueller feeds the brain a richer dose of plasma to strengthen it, in the hope that it will be able to communicate telepathically. Soon his plan succeeds, and Donovan calls out to Cory, telling him to go to the federal prison in Los Angeles. Despite Janice's interference, Mueller and Cory continue stimulating the brain and Cory goes to Los Angeles, where Donovan, who holds Cory in a hypnotic trance, instructs him to withdraw money from his secret account and re-open the case of convicted murderer Roger Collins. Collins, who maintains his innocence despite having been found guilty of killing his stepfather, is suspicious when Cory comes to visit him. From then on, Donovan's brain, which has become self-sustaining, holds Cory completely within its power. Cory demands that Fulton help to free Collins, but Fulton states that evidence given by teenager Mary Lou is too damaging to Collins' case to warrant his release. Janice, frantic about Cory's safety, goes to Los Angeles and there learns from private investigator Grimes, who is working for Chloe and Fulton, that Cory has been trying to bribe the witnesses in Collins' case with Donovan's money. Grimes, who is aware of Donovan's control over Cory, fears that Donovan, who has murdered before, will force Cory to kill Mary Lou. Janice confronts Cory, who orders her to come with him as he drives off to meet Mary Lou's schoolbus. At the last minute, Janice is able to grab the steering wheel and swerve the car as Cory aims it at Mary Lou, after which the demented Cory tries to strangle Janice. In Arizona, Mueller's housekeeper and former mistress, Mrs. Fame, who is jealous of the attention Mueller pays to Janice, gives the brain morphine and it goes to sleep. Cory then regains control of himself, and as he drives back to the castle in Arizona with Janice, tells her that Collins was Donovan's son from a secret first marriage, and that Donovan killed Collins' stepfather after he wrote a damaging exposé on Donovan. When Cory tells Mueller that he wants to end their experiment, Mueller aims a gun at him. As the two men struggle, Mrs. Fame shoots Mueller and Janice destroys the brain's container. Later, Mrs. Fame is acquitted of murdering Mueller, and Cory helps to free Collins, while Janice promises to wait for Cory, who must serve a short prison sentence for his participation in Mueller's grotesque experiment.