When I watch a movie, there are two of me in the same seat. There’s that regular movie-going guy who likes blood and boobs and things that explode, rarely stopping to deeply consider what he’s seeing. We call the kind of movies that guy likes POPCORN MOVIES. But there’s another fellow who accompanies him. This guy likes some of the same things as his friend, but he is a seeker and connoisseur of SERIOUS CINEMA. This guy doesn’t just want to see a movie, he wants it to change his life. The television moans “Let me die! Let me die!” Darkness falls over the screen for a moment, and then the title appears: THE BRAIN THAT WOULDN’T DIE. POPCORN: Dude, it’s on! Hurry up with those nachos. CINEMA: I’m only a head, and you’re whatever you are. Together we are strong. More powerful than any of them . . . so hang on a damn minute! POPCORN: Yeah, well, you’re nothing but a freak of life, and a freak of death! CINEMA: Here, have some nachos, you cheap third grade stripper. POPCORN: Dude, this is only one of the best shitty movies ever. CINEMA: Alive . . . without a body . . . fed by an unspeakable horror from hell. POPCORN: Sounds like your high school years, dude. CINEMA: So there’s an operating room. One of the doctors there has just lost his patient. The nurse – POPCORN: – that’s Jan – CINEMA: – consoles them, insisting they did everything they could. The elder doctor moans about doing everything but saving a life. The other doctor, his son – POPCORN: – the reckless young surgeon Bill Cortner – CINEMA: – whines about still being able to do something. His father relents, and the movie gives us our first lesson: never tell your son “the corpse is yours, do what you want.” POPCORN: For a corpse, the dude on the table sure does breathe a lot. CINEMA: Huh. Never noticed that before. Yeah, that corpse is definitely still breathing. Anyway . . . so Doctor Bill says, in his best Colin Clive voice, “You’ve already lost your patient, but I’m going to save mine!” He instructs his father to massage the heart, while he works on the brain area – POPCORN: Actually says that . . . the brain area. CINEMA: It’s reassuring that he’s so specific. Bill’s father is obviously an incredible surgeon too, as he manages to open up the corpse’s chest, ribcage and all, using nothing more than a scalpel. Meanwhile, Bill peels back the flesh of the head to reveal the brain – POPCORN: (in theatrical “doctor” voice) Oh my God, nurse. This patient died because they did not have a skull. CINEMA: Doctor Bill applies some electrical current to the exposed brain, and, within seconds, the patient’s hand is moving in Frankenstein fashion. Television: “Nothing’s unbelievable if you have the nerve to experiment!” CINEMA: Cue up the philosophical discussion about ethics between the two doctors. See Doctor Bill completely ignore that conversation. The nurse, Jan, approaches them, and we learn that she is Bill’s fiancé. These two are heading off for what only a family of doctors would refer to as the summer house. Before they leave, however, Doctor Bill gets an emergency call from that house. It’s his lab assistant. He says that Bill is needed immediately, which leads to our second lesson – POPCORN: Drive carefully. From the television comes the sounds of a racing engine and screeching tires. Stock footage of sharply turning roads flashes on the screen. More screeching tires. Road signs flash past: Winding Road. Curve. Stop. Screeching tires, the camera zooms in on a guard rail, and the doctor rolls across a lawn. CINEMA: Ha, the first car crash ever filmed without using an actual car. The doctor is merely dazed, crawling back to the vehicle, which is now burning. A motionless hand protrudes from the wreckage. The doctor approaches the burning remains and looks inside. He reaches in, wrapping something in his jacket. The camera follows him as he runs through the countryside with the something under his arm. After running for what appears to be miles, he approaches a palatial estate. CINEMA: Be it ever so humble, there’s no place like the Biltmore. Kurt, the lab assistant, answers the door. One of his arms in a gnarled and crippled mess that more closely resembles a foot. He is trying to tell the doctor something, but Bill races down to a generic lab full of various beakers and other things that bubble. POPCORN: Hey, is that an Acme Mad Scientist lab? CINEMA: Nothing but the best for our Doctor Cortner. He’s going on about his newly perfected adrenal serum, then the camera turns for our big reveal – Jan’s head, wrapped in bandages, is hooked up to tubes and electrodes. POPCORN: Whoa, dude. Is her head in a lasagna pan? Jan is mumbling about fire. CINEMA: Despite having no lungs or vocal cords, Jan is quite the chatterbox. She goes on about the crash and about fire and about not wanting to live like this – POPCORN: That’s women for you. Bill says, “I don’t think the police will track me here because her body was burned in the wreckage.” CINEMA: Oh yeah, the police frequently ignore charred, headless corpses on the side of the road. POPCORN: Scrape ’em up, Ponch. We’re done here. CINEMA: Kurt insists that Doctor Bill look in the closet – POPCORN: Dude, is that a Tasmanian devil in there? CINEMA: – but, about to embark on an entirely new failure, the doctor doesn’t really want to be reminded of his previous ones. That would be like looking at wedding photos from your first four marriages on the eve of your fifth. Let’s just try to be hopeful, okay? POPCORN: They don’t show nothin’ yet anyway. CINEMA: Filmed over thirteen days in 1959, THE BRAIN THAT WOULDN’T DIE didn’t actually see the light of drive-in projectors until 1962. Other than Georges Franju’s 1960 masterpiece EYES WITHOUT A FACE – with a scene of surgical face-removal that still induces a flinch – this was one of the first graphic horror movies, for a couple moments that we haven’t seen yet – POPCORN: Must be the Stumpy scene. CINEMA: Leslie Daniel, as lab assistant Kurt, was in a couple Rossellini films, while Virginia “Jan in the Pan” Leith was in Kubrick’s first movie, FEAR AND DESIRE. Meanwhile, Jason Herb Evers, who played Doctor Bill, managed to get a few other minor roles after this, including parts in THE GREEN BERETS and BASKET CASE II . . . Sleazy saxophone music oozes from the television. CINEMA: With your fiancé clinging to life, time is of the essence. Better hit the strip clubs. POPCORN: Watch out, ladies. Dude only cares about you from the neck down. CINEMA: So Doctor Bill is seeking a new body for Jan’s head, but there’s something a bit lascivious about him. Apparently only strippers and burlesque dancers are going to work. He’s just approached one of these girls and seems to be getting somewhere, when another girl interrupts them. Trying to avoid any witnesses, he scurries off. Then we have this great scene. Blonde Stripper: You lousy tramp! Once in a blue moon I liken to a guy with class, and you mess it up. Brunette Stripper: Eh! What makes you think you had ‘im? He wouldn’t have you on a bet! Blonde Stripper: Says who? Brunette Stripper: Says me! What’s a guy like that want with leftovers anyway? Blonde Stripper: Leftovers?? The blonde stripper slaps the brunette stripper, but the hand appearing in close-up onscreen is obviously a man’s meaty, hairy-knuckled hand. Brunette Stripper: Why, you cheap third grade stripper! A catfight ensues, with both strippers rolling on the ground. The camera cuts to a tapestry with illustrated cats on it and a voice is heard to say “Meow!” POPCORN: Dude, that’s awesome. CINEMA: Meanwhile, Jan and Kurt are embroiled in a similar verbal catfight over who is more horrific. Naturally, Jan thinks that she’s going to win – POPCORN: Hands down. CINEMA: – but Kurt insists that the thing locked behind the door is even more terrible than her. Oh, wait, here comes her big line – Jan: No, my deformed friend. Like all quantities, horror has its ultimate, and I am that. POPCORN: Now gimme a coffee, and make it decaf. CINEMA: That Jan, she’s a real dish, but she’s still got nobody. POPCORN: Too bad, dude. She gives great head. The sleazy saxophone theme is playing again as the doctor continues to trawl for a body. From his car he ogles a young woman strolling the sidewalk. When she turns to look at him, he realizes that he used to date her. She gets into his car. They are about to leave and go back to his place when a friend of hers shows up, asking if she could get a ride. The doctor thinks that he’s missed his opportunity, until the friend says she’s going to the Miss Body Beautiful contest. CINEMA: Lurid and sleazy are two words often used to describe this movie. You might see it now, with 2016 eyes, and think, meh, what’s the big deal? But keep in mind that, when this movie was released, Rob and Laura had to have separate beds, Donna Reed was the ideal mother, and LEAVE IT TO BEAVER was still on the air. POPCORN: So this scientist dude is, like, gonna do a human head transplant. CINEMA: Um . . . I know, I’m watching the same movie. POPCORN: No, man. I mean, like, for real. Some Italian dude. He’s already got a volunteer and everything. CINEMA: Really? POPCORN: Yup, Sergio somethin’. Said he’s trying to get money from Mark Zuckerberg to, like, finance the surgery. Not makin’ this up, dude. CINEMA: They’ve been grafting heads onto things since the early 1900s. Chinese scientists announced that they had transplanted a dog’s head onto another dog’s body, not just once but twice. That was in 1959, the year this movie was filmed – POPCORN: Was it the same dog, or two different dogs? CINEMA: I don’t know. What does it matter? POPCORN: You wouldn’t be saying that if you were the dog. Didn’t they do it with a monkey too? CINEMA: Yeah, I think it was in Cleveland. Probably the 1970s. Not surprisingly, the monkey was pissed off and tried to bite the scientists – POPCORN: Dude, what if they could, like, graft a monkey’s head where its butt was . . . and then graft its butt where its head was? CINEMA: I’m completely done talking about this. POPCORN: Whatever, dude. So the doc’s eyes are just about poppin’ outta his head at this beauty contest. Both of the girls are talkin’ about the hottest chick they ever seen. She’s even got one of those hot-chick names. You know, Doris – CINEMA: So Doctor Bill has an idea – POPCORN: He’s got a few ideas, dude. But he ain’t got time for those other ones right now. CINEMA: He races over to see Doris, who – cue up the saxophone again – is, I guess, modeling for a pack of the most slobbery, leering photographers ever. After they’ve gone, she starts in on Doctor Bill about how she hates men – POPCORN: – all men! any men! men who are still boys! men who used to be women! – CINEMA: Yeah, her hate seems pretty deep. But then she pulls back her hair to reveal – POPCORN: Gasp! CINEMA: – a scar that’s not really that bad. POPCORN: Still the hottest chick anywhere near this movie. CINEMA: I would say that it’s the emotional scar, but we’re not really going that deep in this movie. So, considering this immense hatred and distrust of all men, when Bill asks if she would like to come back to his lab – POPCORN: Sure, lemme get my clothes! CINEMA: Meanwhile, our heady heroine seems to have developed a kind of psychic link to whatever monstrosity is lurking behind that door. She asks him questions and he answers – POPCORN: Like, smash your head into the wall once for yes, and smash it into the wall twice for no. CINEMA: This movie does have one of the best pickup lines ever, when Jan says to the thing behind the door: “I’ve got to see your hideousness, and you’ve got to see mine.” However, before this romance can truly blossom, Kurt returns to the lab for a sudden and inexplicable hate-fest with the bodiless woman. POPCORN: I’ve come to feed your friend. While you feed yourself with hate, he prefers food. CINEMA: Your thoughtless sniveling fear becomes you more. POPCORN: What makes you think I’m afraid of you, a mere head in search of a body? CINEMA: People fear what they don’t understand. POPCORN: You’re nothing but a freak of life, and a freak of death. CINEMA: Oh yeah? Well, take this – From the opened window panel in the door, a huge hand reaches out to grab Kurt’s good arm, pulling it inside. His face contorts in agony as his arm is torn from its socket. When he pulls away from the door, there is nothing but the shredded sleeve of a lab coat, drenched in black-and-white movie blood. It takes several minutes for him to die, stumbling about the lab and much of the house, smearing his bloody stump across nearly every wall in the place. CINEMA: Yeah, this is the scene I always remember. I was about twelve years old, spending the weekend at my grandma’s house, and most likely watched it on WGN’s Saturday afternoon horror show. As terrible as many people consider this movie to be, I was kind of shocked by this scene – POPCORN: In a good way. CINEMA: Oh yeah, I was thrilled by it all. Jeffrey Combs, who was, of course, Herbert West in RE-ANIMATOR, has said that this was also one of his earliest and most vivid horror movie recollections. Anyway, so Doctor Bill shows up. He leaves his date upstairs – POPCORN: In a blood-smeared chair! CINEMA: – and goes down to check on his fiancé’s head, find the dead lab assistant – POPCORN: – and prep those roofies. CINEMA: Uh-huh. He just happens to keep some liquor and highball glasses right there in the lab. You know nothing good’s going to happen when a doctor says, “Here’s to your future . . . whatever it might be.” Cue up the sleazy music one last time – POPCORN: Dude . . . Doris slams that drink like a soldier on shore leave. The doctor carries the unconscious woman down to his laboratory table, working hastily to prep her for a grisly operation. All the while, Jan is protesting, insisting that he can’t do this and that he must be stopped. The doctor tapes her mouth shut. CINEMA: Look at her face. She’s workin’ that psychic voodoo . . . POPCORN: Oh yeah. Sloth from THE GOONIES is about to make an appearance. CINEMA: In lieu of any serious special effects, they hired a seven-and-a-half foot Israeli circus performer named Eddie Carmel. He was also a singer and stand-up comedian, famously photographed by Diane Arbus, who named him The Jewish Giant. His only other film appearance was the 1963 caveman nudie 50000 B.C. (Before Clothing). POPCORN: So this was, like, his career highlight? CINEMA: Uh-huh. POPCORN: Sweet. CINEMA: Whoa! and there he is! POPCORN: This is the best thing ever. CINEMA: The last reel of the movie was originally going to be in color. Supposedly, it ended with the creature ripping Doctor Bill’s head off. POPCORN: Dude, that’s possibly the only thing that could have made this any better. 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: $17.22 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.