Movie Reviews Experiments in the Revival of Organisms

“Experiments in the Revival of Organisms” is a short film produced in 1940, documenting an experiment carried out in the former Soviet Union. The video is still concidered graphic and controversial. It is in black and white, narrated by J.B.S Haldane, contains Russian text with English subtitles and is and made available through the Prelinger Archives. There appear to be two parts – first, an experiment in mantaining organs outside of the living organism and second, reviving an entire organism.

In it, we are shown a severed dog head being kept alive by blood oxygenated via [presumably it’s own] disembodied lung (attatched to a bellows) and pumped through a similarly disembodied heart using a series of tubes and an autojector. The head of the dog is kept in a dish and is shown responding to stimuli – taste, light, sound, touch. The process is narrated and illustrated with animated diagrams.

During the second section, a dog has had it’s head partially severed, allowing access to the arteries and veins there. These are attached to tubes that recirculate the blood. The animal is shown being drained of all blood, therefore bringing it to clinical death, and left for ten minutes. It is then reconnected and appears to come back to life.

The film is widely accepted as a recreation of possible real events. Skeptics claim that the severed head in the first experiment could not possibly move without attachment points for the head and neck muscles. Also, in practice, the heart and lungs ought to have been immersed in some sort of preservative solution. Propaganda or not, the propensity for animal abuse here is high.

There is no doubt that – though this exact example may have been staged for video – procedures identical to the second one were performed then and are done to this day during heart surgery using a Heart-Lung Machine to bypass the heart and supply the body with a steady stream of blood.

Responsible for the depicted procedures was Sergei S. Bryukhonenko, a well-known Soviet scientist and posthumous recipient of the Lenin Prize. He played a vital (no pun intended) role in the invention of the Heart-Lung Machine and was renowned, along with multiple colleagues, for his work with the cardiovascular system and reanimation.