Today we reach back into The Cinematic Coffee Can, and what should pop out on the very first attempt? Why, The Brain That Wouldn’t Die, that’s what!
I can scarce overstate my affection for this piece of horror cinema. Yes, Martin Scorsese, cinema. I said what I said. To date, I’ve seen this movie a dozen or so times.
Never. Gets. Old.
Everything starts with Dr. Bill Cortner (Jason Evers) reviving a patient who’d been pronounced dead. Like ya do. His father, however, is not on board with the doc’s research or practices. Ain’t it always the way? Some folks just refuse to embrace new ideas. Anyway, at the behest of his assistant, Kurt, Dr. Bill and his lovely bride-to-be, Jan (Virginia Leith), decide to jump in the car for a trip to the ol’ family country home/secret lab (trouble at the Batcave apparently).
Sadly, they have an accident in which Jan is decapitated, and their lives, one might say, head off in a new, unexpected direction. Fortunately, Billy Boy is, well, head and shoulders above his medical peers and is more than adequately prepared for this little setback. Quicker than you can say “Heads up,” he’s got Jan’s noggin propped in a pan of goo, and so begins his quest for a suitable body to house her thinker.
It’s sort of a reverse Frankenstein process really. Dr. F put together the body, then had to supply it with a brain. In this case, our good doctor has to supply a body for Jan’s still alive brain.
A big ol’ heapin’ heppin’ of the movie’s 82 minutes is taken up by this very search which at times takes on some very noirish characteristics. For one thing, Dr. Cortner starts skulking around burlesque clubs, street corners, even a beauty contest looking for is an attractive body. It’s almost as if he’s searching for a nice lookin’ vehicle for Jan’s brain to drive around. There’s a level on which it really seems as if he’s just buying is wife a car.
In fact, the plot takes on some noir-ish qualities in the sense that pretty much everyone involved in this search, from Cortner to the potential victims are for the most part pretty awful individuals.
Jan is surprisingly not okay with any of this and refuses to decapit-ulate to her husband’s insistence that she live. In fact she tries her damnedest to make him feel guilty-otined (guillot-y?) for not letting her die. She also develops telepathic abilities. How exactly this happens is never explained and leaves me, well, scratchin’ my head, but it allows her to communicate with her husband’s failed experiment which is locked up in a room next to the lab.
There’s also the aforementioned Kurt, the Gothic, Igor-like figure in cahoots with Herr Doktor. Apparently he helps out under the promise of having his deformed, useless arm replaced.
Some so-called “super reviewer” on Decomposing Lycopersicon Esculenta said:
The Brain That Wouldn’t Die is a perfect example of what a B-Movie is: Boring script, slow pacing, and actors that make Tommy Wiseau look good.
Whatever. I’m not sure what movie this person watched. The pace moves nicely for the most part, and the script is so frought with implausibilities that it’s anything but boring.
As for the acting, it’s fine in its context. Leith in fact has a decent resume beyond this including Kubrick’s first film, Fear And Desire as well as the widescreen Deluxe Color noir (whaaaaaat), A Kiss Before Dying. If she might be accused of over-acting on this one, what choice did she have? She played a disembodied head! What else are you gonna do but emote your, uh, head off? Sheesh. Then again this prat thought the 2014 Godzilla was good so…
BODIES- 3 onscreen
Stream- Dark Matter, Epix, Film Detective, Flix Fling, Plex, Tubi
Rent- Flix Fling, Pantaflix, Prime