In a Nutshell
In the 1930s, Soviet scientist Sergei Brukhonenko embarked on a series of gruesome experiments. Using a device called an ‘autojector’, he and his team managed to keep the body parts of a dog alive after removal, including the head…
The Whole Bushel
In 1940, a film appeared in Britain and America that was the stuff of nightmares. A record of Sergei Brukhonenko’s experiments, it showed faceless Soviet scientists reanimating first a heart, then a pair of lungs, and finally the severed head of a dog. You read that right: the decapitated head of a dog was brought back to life – and they captured it on film.
Or did they? There’s a lot of controversy surrounding this film. Aside from the ethical considerations, there’s the fact that it doesn’t go into much scientific detail on how the reanimations were achieved; or how the severed head manages to move without any neck muscles. In fact, there’s quite a bit of evidence to suggest it was a fake – unfortunately, the same cannot be said of the experiments themselves.
Despite the fake-looking film, it’s pretty much universally-accepted that Brukhonenko genuinely succeeded in keeping a severed head alive for a short period of time. However, the horror of it has probably been exaggerated. The severed dog heads rarely survived more than a few minutes, and those dogs he first exsanguinated then pumped back full of blood (see the end of the movie) were less resurrected zombie-dogs and more the product of abuse: brain damaged and unable to live very long. However, there’s no getting around the fact that the USSR once paid a man to decapitate dogs for a living – and there’s no telling how many strays died during the experiments. So we take that back: the horror was still very real – only less H.P Lovecraft and more Eli Roth.