Friday, July 9, 2010

Leave your brain off for this one....

The Brain That Wouldn't Die (aka "The Head That Wouldn't Die") (1961)
Starring: Herb Evers, Virginia Leith, Leslie Daniels, Adele Lamont, and Bruce Brighton
Director: Joseph Green
Rating: Four of Ten Stars

Bill Cortner (Evers) is a surgeon and research scientiest who has developed new techniques for reviving dead flesh, techniques he knows will revolutionize surgery and transplants not only of organts but of limbs. After his fiance Jan (Leith) is decapiated in a car accident, he uses his techniqaue to keep her head alive while he prowls strip-joints and bikini constests for the perfect body to transpant it onto.

I promise to refrain from any "she gave great head" jokes while reviewing "The Brain That Wouldn't Die" (wait... I think I may have just broken that promise), because while this low-budget cross between "Frankenstein", "Donovan's Brain", and a cheesy exploitation flick may be exceedingly goofy, it does feature some genuinely terrifying moments.

The car accident that claims Jan's life, the scene where the Monster in the Closet gets its hands on Cortner's assistant Kurt (Daniels) and delivers a gory and ironic death to him, and Cortner's luring and poisoning of the owner of Jan's new body (Lamont), and the full revelation of the Monster--which I almost gave away with a still here, but then thought better of it--are all top-notch horrific moments. Unfortunately, they are almost without fail followed up by unintentional comedy (such as Kurt's never-ending death scene).

The film features actors who give better performances than I expected from a film like this, but they are undermined by a terrible script. To describe the dialogue in "The Brain" as stilted and flowery is being kind--some of the lines are so overblown and pompous that it's shocking that any actor could deliver them with a straight face. And just about ever single line uttered by Cortner after he starts prowling the city for a woman to serve as the recepient of Jan's head should be followed with a "bwahahahaha!" they're so pregnant with "Aren't I evil?" references and dual-meanings.

A bigger problem is that the film is padded. The exploitation parts--cat-fighting strippers, prancing bikini-babes, and the private model session given by Lamont's character--mostly detract from the narrative instead of adding to it, causing the film to drag. The purple prose that is the film's dialogue also helps drag it down below average. The good parts are good enough to keep it sinking into the depths of complete and total awfulness, but "good" is stiil not the word that should come up while giving an overall opinion on "The Brain That Wouldn't Die."

(Oh, here's a curious fact, only tangentially related to the movie. The version I viewed--included in Brentwood Video's "The Dead Walk" multi-DVD pack--has a couple of quirks about it. First, there a couple of instances where the reels aren't transferred right and we are treated to what I assume are film leads; instead of a test pattern and beeps, these leads are white and feature a male voice reciting part of a prayer, or reading lines from the Bible. The first time it happened, I had a "WTF" moment... but the second time, I realized it was a problem of some sort with the transfer to DVD. Second, the filmmakers apparently couldn't get the name of their own movie straight: It's called two different things between the opening ald closing titles, with both of the titles listed at the top of this review actually appearing on the film--one at the main title credits, and one at the end title credits.

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