THE BRAIN THAT WOULDN’T DIE (1962) – The Dungeon Review!
You might have noticed I had a science fiction theme going this week. The sci-fi horror titles really tail off as the decade progresses so it seemed appropriate to include a few of these titles early in the feature. I watched a ton of 1950s sci-fi horror flicks last year and was surprised how much I enjoyed them. There are good and bad of course, just like any sub-genre, but even some of the “bad” ones are a lot of fun. A shitload of fun actually! Two in particular pop into my head; Creature from the Haunted Sea and Plan 9 from Outer Space. Technically speaking I can not really deny these are both pretty ugly films. The effects are awful, continuity and editing is shoddy, dark scenes are too dark, and the dialog is ridiculous. Creature from the Haunted Sea has a 3.1/10 average rating and Plan 9 from Outer Space has a 3.8/10 average rating on IMDB. I thought both of these films were a riot! They both made me laugh more than most films intended to be comedy do (and it should be noted that Roger Corman’s Creature from the Haunted Sea is actually intended to be comedic). I think “so bad they are good” is an appropriate descriptor for this duo, but some people take far too much liberty with this expression. Not every B-Movie is a “bad film”. The “B” in “B-Movie” does not indicate bad, it is simply not a mainstream big-budget picture. That said, I do think there are films that one can not deny their lesser qualities but still manage to be highly entertaining; I think today’s little science fiction oddity The Brain that Wouldn’t Die falls into this category nicely.
Unconventional surgeon Dr. Bill Cortner conducts his own experiments at his family’s country home. He is in love with Jan Compton, a nurse who works with him at the hospital. He is called to his country house by his assistant Kurt who is having trouble dealing with one of the good docs “experiments”. Dr. Cortner and Jan head out to the country home tout de suite. Dr. Cortner is taking those corners like Mario Andretti, except he ain’t Mario Andretti. Not surprisingly he wraps the car around a guard rail decapitating his beloved Jan. The doc grabs her head and takes it to his home laboratory. The doc connects his fiancé’s head to a bunch of wires, phone cords, and nuts and bolts which sit in a shallow pan of water. Now all Dr. Cortner needs to do is find her a new body.
The Brain that Wouldn’t Die opens with Dr. Cortner and his father conducting a surgery. Dr. Cortner Sr. almost loses the patient and Dr. Cortner Jr suggests they do things his way which involves massaging the heart and electrodes to the brain. It’s a success and the patient lives! The senior Cortner voices his issues about his son’s non-conventional ways to deaf ears. Not only does he completely ignore his father’s advice and warnings he even forces him to be somewhat complicit in the crimes. The mad doctor makes no apologies for his mistakes and he has certainly made mistakes a plenty! In fact, the most anticipatory event in the film is finding out what is in the closet. The closet you say? Oh yes, the closet!
The first time I saw The Brain that Wouldn’t Die I assumed it was going to be a slice and dicer. I just assumed with the aforementioned plot that Dr. Cortner was going to kill a handful of women. I was thinking Jan’s head would reject the bodies and the doc would end up with a pile of corpses. That is not at all how things go down!! Dr. Cortner is going to pick out a real nice body for Jan! He hits the local strip clubs and goes to a bikini competition to find the perfect fit. He finally sets his sights on a woman he knew in school who is working as a figure model but hides an ugly scar under her hair. She hates men and is initially not at all receptive to the doc. It was after all a man that scarred her so terribly. After promising her that his plastic surgeon father can help her pro bono she begins to warm up. It seemed cruel to me to make this woman his victim, but alas, Dr. Cortner is a man who knows what he wants.
While Dr. Cortner has been out finding Jan a nice new body she has been making friends with what lives in the closet. According to Kurt, the doc’s assistant what lies behind that door is Cortner’s most heinous error! Kurt himself sports one of the doctor’s mistakes in the form of a shriveled deformed arm. Jan apparently has a psychic link with the closet creature all though most of the time she just chats with him. Jan speaks. She doesn’t seem to have any vocal cords or lungs, but does it matter? The film is clearly not begging to be taken seriously! The Brain that Wouldn’t Die is in fact listed as a comedy-horror-sci-fi. Jan is pretty freaking bitter to be just a head in a shallow pan of water. IMDB lists the character as both Jane Compton and “Jan in the Pan”. I love that…Jan in the Pan! Jan plans on using the thing in the closet to seek revenge on the mad doc and his assistant. Jan is one chatty pissed-off head! Jan’s chatter was a bit redundant but what is a head in a dish of water going to think about all day other than revenge? He could have at least given her a book to read! I thought Virginia Leith was actually quite enjoyable as Jan in the Pan; I looked forward to seeing her get her revenge! As for Jason Evers who plays Dr. Bill Cortner, he was not exactly the maddest mad doctor I’ve stumbled upon. His actions were certainly mad enough, but he mostly stays composed. The film has a sleazy vibe but there is never anything more risqué than some women in stripper garb and bathing suits. Despite the lack of dead strippers and bathing suit models the closet shtick was a great little angle that kept me in eager anticipation! There is a bit of unnecessary padding but it is generally well-paced. The sets and props are very simplistic but the film actually doesn’t look bad at all. The effects are crummy but loads of fun! The Brain that Wouldn’t Die is utterly ridiculous and thoroughly entertaining. Recommended!
Dungeon Rating: 3.5/5
Directed By: Joseph Green
Starring: Jason Evers, Virginia Leith, Leslie Daniels, Adele Lamont, Bonnie Sharie, Paula Maurice, Marilyn Hanold, Bruce Brighton