It is no surprise—or shouldn’t be—that Frank Henenlotter is a fan of the cult classic The Brain that Wouldn’t Die (1962). He says so in the Frankenhooker (1990) commentary, he mentioned it on his Facebook page, and even as early as 1993, Mike and the bots at MST3K knew it when that episode aired the night before Halloween as Mike’s first movie. So nobody’s surprising any graduate thesis committee with this revelation from the history of film. This is instead, a piece-by-piece documentation of Frank Henenlotter and The Brain that Wouldn’t Die. You may have dabbled in the possibility of making your own horror host show like Elvira’s Movie Macabre or the immortal Count Gore de Vol. So you also may have learned something about public domain. Originally, horror movie hosts hosted movies on local channels and later on cable networks like USA and TNT, but these shows struggled to release their shows once vhs and dvd arrived, except for the public domain ones. The Brain that Wouldn’t Die is among the most horror-hosted movies out there, along with The Giant Gila Monster (1959) Eegah! (1962) and a few others. This information gave me confidence to use clips of The Brain for my student film, “The Left Hand of Doom” without consulting a lawyer. And the dialogue in The Brain, out of context — or probably even in context — adds a level of beautiful absurdity to anything it touches, whether a horror host show or a bad student film: “I am only a head. And you’re whatever you are” — a difficult philosophy to rebut. Count Gore de Vol’s 1986 version of The Brain is available on his website, including the original interviews with Mr. Monster and Forest J. Ackerman. And those are just the golden age hosts of horror host-dom. The Brain is standard material for today’s horror hosts as well. Henenlotter’s most reported aspiration for filmmaking is his filmgoing experiences on historical 42nd street, an iconic piece of American film history, but he has some affinity for horror hosts as well. He cast Zacherle, one of the most well-known horror hosts, as the voice of the monster, Aylmer, in his earlier film Brain Damage (1988) and as the tv weatherman in Frankenhooker. Rex Carlton and Joseph Green created the story for The Brain that Wouldn’t Die, Green wrote the screenplay in three days and directed in thirteen — my first thought is “It took them thirteen days to shoot?” Green wouldn’t do much more after this except the obscure The Perils of P.K. (1986) almost twenty years later. Carlton, however, made himself a notable place in horror film history especially, producing several works, including Blood of Dracula’s Castle (1969), Hell’s Bloody Devils (1970), and The Rebel Rousers (1970), the first two directed by shlockmeister auteur Al Adamson. For more information on The Brain that Wouldn’t Die via Rex Carlton check out Brian Albright’s two-part piece in Filmfax Plus (No. 146-147). So, I’m going to describe the plots of The Brain and Frankenhooker at once. A mad scientist, responsible for the decapitation of his fiancé, preserves her head as he searches for a suitable living body to host his fiancé’s head. Virginia Leith plays the fiancé Jan Compton in The Brain and is now lovingly referred to as Jan-in-the-Pan. In retrospect Frankehooker’s lineage seems obvious, and though a fan of both films, this never dawned on me. Perhaps the tone of each film kept me from making the connection. The Brain tries to take itself dark, tragic and dead serious, but wound up an inadvertent comedy, ripe for riffing by all horror hosts and you and me on our couches. Frankenhooker, in Henenlotter’s own words, is an all-out comedy. The Brain stars 70s and 80s TV regular Jason Evers as Dr. Bill Cortner who strikes out twice before finding a suitable candidate on which to attach Jan-in-the-Pan. At a strip club, he goes to a back room with a blond stripper played by Bonnie Sharie, but before he can seduce her into coming home with him a brunette stripper played by Paula Maurice enters with the intent of counter-seducing the doctor. The jig is up for the doctor since he doesn’t need two bodies, and an extra one would just be a witness. The brunette stripper says to him, “I’ll remember you,” and he responds, “That’s what I’m afraid of.” After he leaves, the two women catfight and the scene closes on a shot of wall decor—two cartoon cats with an audible “meow” over the shot. They should have just played that vaudeville trombone instead. While The Brain could be considered a dark horror movie for its time, elements like this and many more create a mishmash of tones in the film. It’s his second strikeout, however, that reads more humorously. He cruises the streets in broad daylight looking for, uhm, a broad, and finds an old friend, Donna, played by Lola Mason, also a 70s and 80s TV regular, and a standout in The Brain for her scene-stealing with better acting. She suggests he judge a beauty contest, but as she gets into his car, Jeannie (Audrey Devereal) joins them, and it’s the same problem as before, too many women. The scene is filled with double entendres and funny subtext like, “Hey, how about a little side course in anatomy” and “I always follow the doctor’s orders. Anything you prescribe I’ll take.” When it was only Donna, he was going to drop by his place to cut her head off — not his exact words — so when the other woman shows up he doesn’t have to go home after all, and this exchange follows: Donna: “Guess he thinks there’s safety in numbers.” Dr. Cortner: “This time there is.” Jeannie Reynolds: “We promise not to hurt you.” Dr. Cortner: “And I promise not to hurt you.” And then the scene ends with him laughing. Joseph Green had to have written these lines with his tongue in his cheek. They read more like lines from a dark comedy, and that there might be the true inspiration for Henenlotter to exploit this film as a comedy. He even says in the first minute of the Unearthed Films dvd commentary for Frankenhooker that “This whole movie is a riff on The Brain That Wouldn’t Die.” Jeffrey Franken, played by James Lorinz, is Dr. Cortner’s mad scientist counterpart in Frankenhooker, and he cruises for a suitable body for his fiancé just as Dr. Cortner did, except he scopes out streetwalkers. He meets Honey, played by an equally scene-stealing Charlotte J. Helmkamp, and through her, arranges a beauty show for his “sick brother” — again, the beauty show is straight out of The Brain. When confronted — “And you get the winner right?” — Jeffrey says, “I’ll make a new woman of her.” No line more than that one perfectly matches the tongue-in-cheek lines from Dr. Cortner. Henenlotter explains this homage on the commentary as Franken plays with a brain in a jar that has one eye in it. Gabe Bartalos actually created that brain from the original poster for The Brain that Wouldn’t Die. Film history is filled with misleading movie posters, and I’m sure Carlton and Green never intended the brain to be in The Brain. But Henenlotter rescued it and put it Frankenhooker. A bit of an aside, but when Jeffrey meets Honey, she flashes him, saying, “Honey, in case you ain’t noticed I not only got all the right parts, I’ve got them in all the right places,” which might be the funniest line ever spoken in the Henenlotter universe. If it were just the beauty show and the one-eyed brain, this would still be an interesting story, but The Brain is further embedded in his work. He did something of mythic proportions, which I’ve heard of others doing before. He stole a character from The Brain that Wouldn’t Die and let him live in another one of his films, so his Brain homage actually spans more than one of his films. Henenlotter and company shot Frankenhooker back to back with Basket Case 2 (1990). Our not-so-esteemed Dr. Cortner from The Brain, Jason Evers, appears in Basket Case 2 as the tabloid newspaper editor for Judge and Jury: America’s Bravest Newspaper, but that’s not the character Henenlotter rescued. In The Brain, the body-less fiancé communicates telepathically with an earlier unsuccessful experiment, a hideously deformed mutant locked in a room and played by 7’ 7” Eddie Carmel who suffered from gigantism as well as other ailments. In the end of The Brain, it is the monster who destroys the doctor, encouraged telepathically by Jan-in-the-Pan. Apparently the logic is that losing your body is just like when you lose one sense and the others become stronger. Therefore, headless bodies acquire telepathy. Who knew? In Basket Case 2 Duane and Belial Bradley, the conjoined twins on a killing spree, find safety and solace at a home for people like them, and among the amazing oddities in both sequels is Frederick played by Sturgis Warner in 2 and James Scott in Basket Case 3. The Brain’s monster is mute and, according to the sort of house mother Ruth, Frederick is introverted and difficult to understand. Both however, are tall with heads that look like the top corner got pulled up like taffy and stayed that way, so that the eye on that side of both monsters are way up on their foreheads. Henenlotter rescued Eddie Carmel’s Monster and put him in Basket Case 2 and 3. You have to look at Howard Hawks remakes of his own films to see a more thorough homage to another film. Luckily for us, we get Frank Henenlotter, The Brain that Wouldn’t Die, Jan-in-the-Pan, Frederick, and Frankenhooker in all its glory. See larger image The Brain That Wouldn’t Die [Blu-ray] Special Features Include: -High Definition (1080p) transfer from the negative – restored to its uncut version (1.66:1) -Mystery Science Theater 3000 episode – “The Brain That Wouldn’t Die” (in Standard Definition) -Audio Commentary with film historian and author Steve Haberman and writer Tony Sasso -Alternate Scene from the International Cut -Theatrical Trailer -Still Gallery New From: $17.28 USD In Stock Share this:TweetShare on TumblrLike this:Like Loading... Related Leave a Reply Cancel ReplyYou must be logged in to post a comment.