During the Second World War, there were many questionable research experiments being conducted by scientists from all over the world. While the deranged work of the Nazi scientists have received the most attention, other groups such as the Japanese Unit 731 as well as the Soviets also engaged in many unethical investigations in the name of science.
One of the most striking documents from that period is a 1940 short film titled Experiments in the Revival of Organisms. A documentary that has continued to gain notoriety in the years that have followed, it showcases attempts by scientists to keep dead animals alive through special contraptions such as the heart-lung machine.
Conducted by Sergei Brukhonenko and Boris Levinskovsky, the operations are highly unsettling to look at. We are shown how the organs of a dog continue to function even after being separated from the body. Although the video claims that many dogs were brought back to life after death through these shocking methods, other scientists denied those claims.
This was reinforced by the fact that some of the more challenging experiments were not shot properly, leaving room for editing and manipulation. Despite the fact that some of the machines in the film inspired modern medical devices and other medical developments, Experiments in the Revival of Organisms has become a cultural artefact now.
It famously served as a source of inspiration for one of Metallica’s finest music videos – ‘All Nightmare Long’. Directed by Robert Schober, the video is a mockumentary featuring an alternative timeline where the apocalypse is just around the corner. In order to attract public attention, horror aficionado Kirk Hammett claimed that he bought it from a Russian fan for $5.
In an interview, James Hetfield explained: “It was an attempt to get back to the H.P. Lovecraft mythos with ‘The Thing that Should not Be’, ‘The Call of Ktulu’. This was about the Hounds of Tindalos, which was another crazy mindf— about these wolves that hunt through their nightmares and the only way you can get away from them is to stay with angels. You can’t even escape through sleep.”
The video was deliberately shot in the style of underground Russian documentaries to add to the visual experience. Many other artists have referenced the infamous experiment in their own works but the Metallica music video is probably the most famous contemporary interpretation of what the experiments had to say about our mortality.
Watch the dark 1940 research film Experiments in the Revival of Organisms below.