Thursday, May 24, 2012

#647. The Brain That Wouldn't Die (1962)

Directed By: Joseph Green

Starring: Herb Evers, Virginia Leith, Leslie Daniels

Tag line: "Alive... without a body... fed by an unspeakable horror from hell!"

Trivia:  Filmed in 1959 but, due to various legal and censorship problems, the movie was not released until 1962

Movie patrons in 1962 who paid their way into The Brain That Wouldn't Die sure got their money's worth, though how they reacted to the film is another matter. Never hiding the fact it’s an exploitation picture, The Brain That Wouldn't Die contains scenes that might have rattled a few nerves in the early '60s.

Bill Cortner (Herb Evers) is a surgeon who's been working on a serum which, once administered, will revive dead tissue, thus clearing the way for the limbs and organs of the deceased to be transplanted to live patients. When his fiancé, Jan (Virginia Leith), is decapitated in an auto accident, Dr. Cortner uses every means at his disposal to keep her head alive, with the intention of grafting it onto the body of another woman. But as Dr. Cortner scurries to find a new body for his beloved, Jan's head regains consciousness, and starts making plans to end this devilish “experiment” once and for all.

Considering the time period in which it was made (among the films setting the Box Office ablaze in 1962 were To Kill a Mockingbird, The Music Man and Lawrence of Arabia), The Brain That Wouldn't Die doesn't pull any punches, offering its contemporary audience a handful of images they weren't used to seeing on the big screen. Immediately after the crash, Dr. Cortner, who’d been thrown from the vehicle, stumbles over to the burning wreckage to survey the damage. With a look of horror on his face, he reaches into the car and pulls out what could only be Jan’s head! Wrapping it in his sports coat, he takes off running, anxious to get to work on it as soon as possible. For that matter, the sight of Jan’s head resting in a metal pan and being kept alive by tubes is enough to generate a few gasps even today. And where does Dr. Cortner choose to look for her "new" body? In bars and strip clubs, figuring if he’s gonna give his future wife a fresh look, why not make it a sexy one?

Yet more disturbing than the film's depictions of body parts and sleaze are the scenes where Jan's severed head quietly cries out for death. “Let me die”, she says, her barely audible voice slightly distorted, wanting only for her personal horror to end. Even if modern viewers choose to laugh off the movie's clunky dialogue, overly-intrusive musical score and sloppy editing (the car crash, with quick shots of street signs, guard rails and winding roads, is particularly roughshod), I guarantee these moments will still send a cold chill racing up their spine.


RuthlessGoat said...

One of the greatest camp guilty pleasures ever. That monster in the closet! I've said too much...

James Robert Smith said...

I recall seeing this film as a kid on TV. I was really horrified. It's an effective horror film that makes it through its budgetary limitations to do its job. A classic exploitation film that delivers the grimy goods as advertised.