Plot Details: This opinion reveals minor details about the movie's plot.
The Brain that Wouldn't Die is one of my top ten bad movie favorites. It's one of the most entertaining movies you'll ever see!
Dr. Bill Cortner (Jason Evers billed as Herb Evers) is a brilliant scientist with a common character flaw. He likes sexy slutty women. No no no... I mean he's an arrogant know it all who insists on experimenting on humans rather than lab rats.
At the hospital as the movie opens he insists on trying something after his father the other surgeon has declared a patient on the operating room table dead. He tells his father to open up the patient's chest and massage the heart (we don't see any gore here) while he pokes the brain with some electricity. The patient lives!!! Dad, however cautions his son that his methods are too radical and irresponsible and he must not experiment with human beings. Billy insists he's very close to a breakthrough in his research on organ and limb transplants. Dad tells his son that he can't keep taking limbs off corpses at the hospital... people are noticing.
Then nurse Jan shows up. She's Bill's fiancé and can't wait to get married. Dad is off to a medical conference in Denver. A call comes in for Dr. Bill...from someone named Curt.. something has happened at the family's country home. Dr. Bill tells Jan that it's time for her to see what he has been working on and so they jump into Jan's car and speed off to the country home. Uh oh.. speeding is not good... winding roads going through stop signs... something bad is going to happen here.... Oh no... the car crashes, Dr. Bill is thrown from the vehicle but JAN poor Jan is decapitated (we still haven't seen any gore by the way) and is killed. .....or is she?
The Brain That Wouldn't Die - was made in 1959 but the surprisingly occasionally gory and sometimes sleazy feature didn't show up in theaters until 1962. By the time it got to television a few years later as much as 16 minutes was cut out-(sexy girls wrestling, scenes with any kind of gore whatsoever,) and sometimes this included even close ups of the cone head like ‘thing in the closet'.
There are several versions of this one out there... You want to find the 85 minute uncut version. Synapse put out a good one (no extras but a good print that's nearly pristine).
A brilliant spoiled rich surgeon (Jason Evers -billed as Herb Evers) likes to drive too fast. He doesn't listen to his fiancé' Jan, who tells him to slow down and in the accident she is decapitated. He wraps her head in his jacket and takes it back to his upstate New York mansion which we see very little of ( because most of the film was, shot inside a warehouse in Tarrytown, New York). He keeps the head alive in a film developing tray.
The head ,( Virgina Leith) who looks a lot like actress Sean Young, won't shut up. She keeps complaining that she should be allowed to die, there's no sense of living if she can't wear designer shoes. She complains to the somewhat crippled assistant Kurt and she talks to the-thing-we-do-not-see that is being kept in the closet. Eventually she becomes friends with the closet thing. Eventually Doc Bill gets tired of listening to her talk and complain so he puts tape over her mouth. (I kid you not!!!)
Since the Jan the Fiancé's head is in the tray with tape over her mouth, while our Doctor tries to get the pretty model stripper he's kidnapped as a subject to put Fran's head on... Fran has to talk via telepathy to the thing in the closet and.....
I'm going to assume that you have already decided you simply HAVE GOT TO SEE this movie, so, I will leave you to discover the unbelievable ending.
The uncut 85 minute version of this one has nudity and a very gory (for the time) finale.
This was part of the Mystery Science Theater 3000 collection and you can watch the unoriginal uncut film without the MST guys commenting on it. . . which I highly suggest since this unique film doesn't need to have anyone interrupting it with wisecracks and silly bits.
Now, I realize you might be tempted to ask logical questions when viewing this classic such as: How exactly do you keep a woman's head alive in a photo developing tray anyway? That's a good question and you have to ask more questions about this like: Okay so she was decapitated in a car accident, but it was a really clean even decapitation and she didn't get burned by the car fire but who keeps making sure her makeup is done just right? What does ‘just a head' eat ? How is she breathing and talking without lungs? How come the head looks like Sean Young the actress?
I won't answer these questions and the movie doesn't address them either which will allow you to do some research and come up with your own answers. Make a game of it. You really don't want a movie like this to try to explain itself to you, anyway, it is far better that it just throws silly dialogue out at you. The acting styles of the cast vary widely. Some people over-act, some people under-act, and clearly no one graduated as (ahem) head of their class from acting school. (Thank you....)
The second or third time you watch this incredible movie you'll probably notice a lot mistakes and continuity errors. Why is that sleeve buttoned in one shot and rolled up without buttons in the next? Why did they have a completely different actress dub some lines of dialogue for Jan when she is riding in the car? And hey..what's up with the title? At the end of the movie it suddenly says THE HEAD THAT WOULDN'T DIE. Why? Well, that's probably what the original title of the movie was But when AIP (American International Pictures) took the original 85 minute film and released it as a double feature in 1962 cutting it down to a 79 minutes (losing the nude scene and a couple of gore shots) they called it The Brain That Wouldn't Die, and the title stuck. No need to spend 500 to 1000 dollars re-doing the title card at the end of the movie-it's at the end... who cares?
Oh and you should know that by the time this one got to television it was cut down to either 71 or 67 minutes. These 71 and 67 minute versions pop up on DVDs and should be avoided. The 85 minute uncut version is head and shoulders above (sorry) all others. (The 82 minute version snips the nude scene). * The story is credited to Rex Carlton and the movie was written and directed by Joseph Green. Green (who died in 1999) ran a small distribution company that imported movies to distribute in the United States. He has a couple of credits. He added some footage to an imported movie originally shot in Japan called Day-Dream (it was a nudie-cutie movie featuring some topless women seen by a guy who is under sedation at the dentist's office). It was released in 1964.
He also directed The Perils of P.K. which was a vanity project made by actress Naura Hayden who wrote and starred in the movie which has a 1986 date at IMDB but was probably made a few years earlier. Hayden was a star of some b movies in the late 50s and put together this movie which features her as a mature stripper trying to make a movie and running into famous stars like Joey Heatherton, Jackie Mason and Sammy Davis Junior while in Las Vegas. It's probably a horrible move and remains unavailable.
The Brain that Wouldn't Die is one of the best baaad movies you are ever likely to see. See the uncut 85 minute version which features nudity and some once shocking gore shots. The plot and dialogue are ridiculous and the acting is all over the place. The movie is really cheap, the special effects and make-up are a little bit better than you would expect. You'll have lots of fun laughing at this one for a variety of reasons.
*RUNNING TIME NOTE:
What? Running time note? Are you kidding me? This is a dumb bad movie we are talking about isn't it?
Well it's not just any dumb bad movie but one of the very best bad movies and if we were talking about a censored version of say Taxi Driver that was missing several minutes you might pay close attention to such a thing, right?
Anyway look for and get the 85 minute version if possible. The 82 minute version is acceptable-it retains the gore, but it is missing 3 minutes of sleaze and the nude scene. Many of the DVD versions are the 71 or 79 minute versions and should be avoided. TCM has shown a 79 minute version on cable TV which is just wrong-show it uncut. The 82 minute version is included in Mill Creek and other mega movie multi-packs. The quality of the print is faded and very grey looking but if that's what is available, have fun watching the movie and look for a better quality uncut version later. I have heard the complete version is part of the AMC Monsterfest DVD package. I don't know if it's the 82 or 85 minute version and I've read complaints about the quality of the other 3 films in that package.
Apologize if this discussion of running times is giving you a headache (hehehe) but it matters to some of us.
Added to the Celebrate America Write-Off Series in honor of eps member Texas-Swede becoming a U.S. Citizen!!!
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Viewing Format: DVD
Video Occasion: Fit for Friday Evening
Suitability For Children: Suitable for Children Age 13 and Older