Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Tuesday Terrors - The Brain That Wouldn't Die (1962) starring Jason Evers

Whatever you do, DON'T open the closet. I mean it. Forget the head over there on the table. Ignore its babbling. Forget the beakers and other instruments that are there to engage in experiments meant to prolong life or give it back to the dead. The dead bodies upstairs? Don't worry about them. Just don't open that closet door!

Ok, reminiscing time again. A few years back, yer ol' Professor was spending Thanksgiving evening with his two then-younger-teen children, watching some retro-TV. Apparently one of the local stations had given up on trying to compete with the parades and football and decided to run a day of programming from the 50's and 60's that would have been seen on the channel. Surprisingly, to close out the day, they pulled out what is apparently one of the very few existing clips of local horror host Dr. Lucifer who presented shock Theater from 1958 to 1967. (For more info on Dr. Lucifer please see this site.)

Y'know, there's just something different about watching a film like this late at night, with the lights off, having been invited into the film by the sometimes sonorous, sometimes dissonant (depending on the temperament and character of the particular host) tones of a local host who would often give you some background on the film, who would sometimes give you some critique of the actors and the movie itself, who would sometimes simply ridicule the advertisers. There was a connection that would be made, and even though quite often everyone, from the host to the people behind the cameras to the viewing audience knew that the show wasn't really that good, we were still drawn in, co-conspirators with the host, and we would watch until the bitter end, if only to see how he (or she) would wrap up the evening's proceedings. There was many a Saturday night when I was a child that simply couldn't end until I was bid by MY host, Sir Cecil Creape, "Goodnight. Sleep Tight. And don't let the beddy-bugs bite".

Anyway, there was a little bit of that same magic in the air that particular thanksgiving night. Starting about 10:30, the dulcet tones of Dr. Lucifer emanated from the television as he invited us to share with him a film called The Brain that Wouldn't Die! With a title like that, how could we be for anything but an hour and a half of cheesy fun?

And cheesy fun is exactly what we got from this flick. It wasn't long at all before my son and I were completely wrapped up in the plight of Jason Evers' Dr Bill Cortner. Dr. Bill, you see, is frustrated, because he knows that he has developed new techniques and serums that can save and extend lives. But he's being held down by the medical establishment, represented specifically by his father, also a surgeon, who thinks that Dr. Bill is irresponsible and too far ahead of his time. Soon, however, he is going to have a chance to prove just how well his techniques work.

On their way to the remote cabin in the woods where Dr. Bill does his research, he and his fiancee, Jan Compton, are caught in a fiery car accident. Dr. Bill walks away mostly unscathed, but Jan is nowhere near so lucky. Snatching up her disembodied head from the fiery wreck, Dr. Bill carries it to his lab where he injects it with various fluids, hooks it up to electrodes, and sets it upright in a pan full of chemicals on his workbench that somehow restore life and thought to the bodiless head.

Now all Dr. Bill has to do is find a body to reattach the head to. Of course, not any body will do. Janet was quite the looker when she had something more than a pair of eyes and a smile to look at, and Dr. Bill decides that only the perfect body will do. This is where the movie truly begins to show its seamy exploitation roots, as the good doctor decides the best place to find a suitable candidate is a "dance" club. Apparently he is quite a charmer, for he soon finds himself backstage, where instead of kicking him out, the dancers are soon catfighting over him. When that doesn't work out, he decides to go visit a former patient of his who is now working as a nude photography model. Of course, this being the early sixties, these scenes are handled with a kind of edgy discreteness, more tease than true titillation.

From there the film just seems to slide more and more into a kind of delirious insanity. I haven't even discussed Jan's seeming new psychic abilities. Nor Dr. Bill's vengeful deformed assistant. Nor the thing in the closet. Ah, yes, now we come back to the thing in the closet. You see, Jan is not the first person upon whom Dr. Bill has tried his new techniques, and locked in a closet in the laboratory basement, fed only scraps and aching to kill, is a creature that is apparently an amalgam of all of those failed experiments. And once Jan starts using her newly expanded mind powers to convince the creature to escape, well, you know it can't be a good thing.

Ok, enough of me talking, let's take a look at the trailer, shall we?

And here's the skinny:
Title: The Brain That Wouldn't Die
Release Date: 1962
Running Time: 82 min
Black and White
Starring: Jason Evers, Virginia Leath
Directed by: Joseph Green
Produced by: Rex Carlton, Mort Landberg
Distribution Company: American International Pictures

The Brain That Wouldn't Die is available for free to watch or download here.
For DVD lovers, it's available from Amazon: The Brain That Wouldn't Die, and the MST3K treatment is also available: Mystery Science Theater 3000 - The Brain That Wouldn't Die.
Right now, it appears Netflix only has the regular version available to "Save" until they get more copies: The Brain That Wouldn't Die, but they do have the MST3K version available for rental now: Mystery Science Theater 3000: The Brain That Wouldn't Die

Until next time, Happy Treasure Hunting,
-Professor Damian


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