Some movies are just so awful that they endure for no other reason but that they are that bad. While there are more than a few overly-vocal critics of the So-Bad-It's-Good ethos, that doesn't stop it from existing or growing. The fact that an uncountable number of ever changing DVD distributors feel compelled to make their bread and butter on the backs of these public domain movies - and actually succeed at it, only means that whoever let these movies go to public domain was a fool. There's still tons of money to be made off of them. And I'm not talking miniscule little mid west video distributors. Even the American Movie Channel has got into the act, releasing this dross on DVD.
Take for example, this movie, THE BRAIN THAT WOULDN'T DIE.
The movie begins with a black screen and a woman begging to be killed. Then we see some surgeons working on a man. The patient dies, Old Doctor Cortner (Bruce Brighton) gives up, and his son, Bill (Jason 'Herb' Evers: THE ILLUSTRATED MAN, ESCAPE FROM THE PLANET OF THE APES, CLAWS, BARRACUDA, BASKET CASE 2) asks to take over and try his experimental methods.
Old Doc Cortner doesn't cotton to the idea. Saving lives is playing "God" doncha know? Yeah, but what has the dead patient got to lose? The poor dead patient might appreciate someone playing "God" to save his freaking life! The vanguard shows up the old guard, but gets no respect for it right away. Instead he is chided and a mild pissing match ensues. The son has a few choice words for his old man which puts the fart in his place, and finally boy-o gets the begrudging respect he deserves.
Yes, with new and modern medical methods, more lives can be saved thanks to the son. This is cause for a celebration. The old doctor still has his reservations but the son can't wait to do more of these surgeries to verify his methods.
His Pop insists on more experiments on animals. But the son only experiments on those patients who were otherwise given up for dead. The son is all about the science of transplants and limb grafts so perfect that the patient would swear they were their own. This is the rift between Father and Son.
At this point the Father is one scary old coot (I don't know about you, but I'd want a doctor who takes more interest in saving my freaking life!) and the son is rational and compassionate.
The son has invented this compound, see? Once he perfects it, then it will revolutionize medicine. The old man gives his son his due so long as he adheres to the Scientific method and not risk lives like some money grubbing homeopathic sleezebag making empty promises and leaving a trail of dead bodies behind.
Son fires back, insulted at the implication. But yeah, he's totally guilty of that.
Meanwhile, after clean-up, the nurse Jan Compton (Virginia Leith: BLACK WIDOW, A KISS BEFORE DYING), who turns out to be the young doctor's lusty fiance, congratulates her man.
The love between father and son remains, however. This isn't a pair of socially insane family stereotypes like we've seen since the mid 1990s on up.
Driving home, we see that Bill covered nicely but actually his hothead ways and his father's tempered remarks angered him more than he let on. To let off steam, he drives the twisty mountain roads like a maniac. One thing leads to another, there's a car wreck, and while he is thrown clear onto a grassy hillside, Jan isn't so lucky.
Jan is trapped inside the car and burning alive. Bill has only one chance to save her - or one part of her.
The upshot of all of this is that he reanimates just her head.
Now he just needs to find a body.
Any idea that Bill has such a good heart that he couldn't just let his medical mishaps die, is lost when he goes body hunting in a few strip clubs for his gal.
Meanwhile, Jan regains consciousness. Worse, she is now in his private home lab, resting in a baking pan, and sees that all of this time Bill has been experimenting on other people!
And... and parts of people! And ... and with less than heroic results (hey, we all have to practice to get good at anything).
If you're keeping track, here is where the movie flips and we see that old Pop knows his creepy son better than we do!
Bill's deformed lab assistant, Kurt (Leslie Daniels^), who was once a brilliant so and so in his own right, holds out hope for a hand transplant. Like with W.H. in DONOVAN'S BRAIN, Jan discovers that, without a body, she has developed telepathic powers, which allow her to speak to the misshapen thing in the basement.
Yeah. At this point, it's time for a
Back in the mid 20th century, Dr. Robert White successfully proved the efficacy of the first head transplant of a mammal. He and others were able to repeat his method, making it fact. His methods were duplicated by Russian scientist, Dr. Vladamir Negovskii, a pioneer in reanimation in his own right.
Would you like to see documentary videos of Dr. White and his techniques? Go to THE SCIENCE MOMENT/The Head That Wouldn't Die.
Actually, THE BRAIN THAT WOULDN'T DIE could be a good movie if only it wasn't for the super low budget. The concept is good, the characterization is reasonably good, the actors gave it their best with what they had. But what the original story by writers Rex Carlton* (UNEARTHLY STRANGER, NIGHTMARE IN WAX, BLOOD OF DRACULA'S CASTLE) and Director / Producer Joseph Green (DAY-DREAM) called for, required better special effects than what the budget for this film could muster. The sets are absurdly fake appearing and so are the make-up effects by George Fiala (SANTA CLAUS CONQUERS THE MARTIANS) and SFX by Byron Baer (nothing in film ever again). This includes an actor whose creature mask, at one point during a fight, is visibly tied on with laces in the back. Near the end of the movie, it's like everyone just gave up and went for cheeseball.
The formerly sweet and lusty Jan goes out of her mind (who wouldn't? She was conscious when her fiance sawed her head off!) and cackles maniacally at the most gruesome shenanigans going on around her (it's not like she can do anything about it or escape it). Arms are ripped out of their sockets, victims are left to go stumbling around the house bleeding to death: Jan would laugh her head right out of the bake pan if it wasn't firmly attached!
Mystery Science Theater 3000 was right to lambaste this flick, but that doesn't stop me from giving it my recommendation for a remake/reboot. After all, once you see THE BRAIN THAT WOULDN'T DIE, you will be amazed at just how influential it became!
4 Negative Shriek Girls, 2 Shriek Girls.
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