In the November 1936 issue of Doc Savage magazine, Lester Dent explores the possibility of bringing the dead back to life in “Resurrection Day.” It is one of the bigger-than-life stories involving a gang of extraordinarily vicious criminals, an ancient mummy, and an exotic location. Where does the inspiration for these stories come from?
In this case, the first clue is probably taken from George Wort’s story, “The Return of George Washington,” which was serialized in Argosy starting with the October 15, 1927, issue. The story ran for six consecutive issues as a serial. Will Murry writes about this in the Sanctum edition of “Resurrection Day.”
Could there be other items that piqued Dent’s interest in this subject? During the 1930s, a scientist named Robert Cornish, conducted a series of laboratory experiments on dogs aimed at restoring life to recently deceased animals. Cornish was something of a genius, earning his doctorial degree from the University of California at the age of 22.
There are multiple newspaper accounts of his experiments in the years immediately preceding the writing of “Resurrection Day.” In 1935, a film based on his reanimation experiments was released under the title “Life Returns.” The movie follows Dr. John Kendrick in his attempt to create a revitalizing fluid that will restore life. The climax of the movie shows the reanimation of a dead dog rather than a human.
Finally, we should not forget Hollywood. The movie “Frankenstein” was released in 1931. It was loosely based on Mary Shelley’s 1818 novel of the same name. It was a immensely popular with a sequel titled “The Bride of Frankenstein” coming out in April 1935.
Although not named, the movie is referred to indirectly in the “Resurrection Day” story.
A number of movies, usually the horror type of pictures, had been made in which people or monsters have been brought to life, and Doc’s aids had seen them – even erudite Johnny, who publicly declared movies below his dignity, but occasionally slipped out to see one.
The motion picture resurrections usually consisted of putting a corpse under a bunch of big electrodes, showy glass vacuum tubes, and a bearded scientist pushed a switch, after which there was a blinding, deafening. display of electrical sparks. The favorite gag was to tap the heavens for a lightning bolt. There was always enough electricity in evidence to execute a penitentiary full of convicts.
It is unlikely we will ever know the exact details of Dent’s inspiration for this particular story. But it is interesting to examine the various materials that were available while the story was written.