‘Experiments in the Revival of Organisms’ is a 20-minute Soviet film from 1940 documenting a series of revolutionary and disturbing experiments led by Dr. Sergei Brukhonenko, and the footage shows his medical team attempting to reanimate clinically dead organisms by using a peculiar array of contraptions designed with that purpose in mind. The experiments were filmed at the Institute of Experimental Physiology and Therapy in Moscow, and the project was funded by the Soviet government.
Most of the experiments showcased in the footage revolve around an apparatus called the autojektor, a heart-lung machine similar to modern Extracorporeal membrane oxygenation devices that is able to stimulate organs into action even with lifeless organisms. The documentary begins with the testimony of British scientist J. B. S. Haldane, who relates how he has personally oversaw the procedures in the film and how they saved countless lives during World War 2. The footage starts with a shot of the isolated heart of a dog, as the organ appears to be connected to the autojektor through four tubes. The peculiar device then starts to pump blood into the lifeless heart, which in turn seems to beat regularly as if it was still inside the live canine. The scene is then followed by a similar experiment, this time showing a dog’s lung on a tray. The lung is connected to the contraption, which appears to pump air into the organ. The lung then inflates and deflates rhythmically as if it were still functioning inside the animal. The film then shows the autojektor machine, composed of a pair of linear diaphragm pumps, venous and arterial tubes that allow oxygen exchange within a water reservoir. The device appears to be supplying the decapitated head of a dog with oxygenated blood.
In what is considered the most disturbing scene in the infamous documentary, the body-less dog’s head is then stimulated with the help of a feather, and the head responds by reacting to the stimuli. For the final scene, the researchers bring a live dog and then proceed to get it to clinical death. After a 10-minute lapse, they connect the corpse to the autojektor, and within a few minutes, the dog starts to breathe and react to stimuli. The researchers end the documentary by claiming that the dog went to live a long healthy life. Since the documentary’s release, many people have questioned the validity of its claims. Still, the experiments have not been scientifically debunked.