Thursday, September 21, 2017

The Brain That Wouldn't Die (1962)

Dr. Bill Cortner is a mad scientist. Why would I call him mad? He’s madly in love with his fiancĂ©e, Jan Compton. Oh, and he does unethical medical experiments with body parts obtained by questionable means. One weekend, Bill and Jan are on their way to a country house owned by his father. Being the reckless driver that he is, he gets into an accident that decapitates Jan.
Normally, that would be the end of it, but Bill has this serum he’s been working on that will allow any body to accept any transplant. He’s able to take Jan’s head to the house where his friend, Kurt, has some new body parts waiting. They rush down to the lab and manage to revive Jan’s head. She immediately hates Bill for doing this and wishes to just die. Alas, Bill won’t have any of it. He has at most 50 hours to find Jan a new body. Oh, and he should probably mention the horrible monster in the closet.
So, he sets off checking out various clubs and whatnot. At a beauty contest, he gets the idea to use the body of a model named Doris Powell. Doris doesn’t go out much as she has this hideous disfigurement from a previous boyfriend. And by hideous, she means a relatively small scar on her face that’s well hidden by her long hair.
It’s actually perfect for Bill’s needs. He can use it to lure Doris back to the laboratory and the scar is on a part of her body that he doesn’t need. The problem is that Jan uses the horrible monster in the closet to kill Kurt. When Bill gets back, he covers the body only to meet a similar fate. The monster escapes with Doris’s unconscious body, leaving Bill, Kurt and Jan in a burning building.
Oh, where to begin with this movie?
The Brain That Wouldn’t Die, sometimes called The Head That Wouldn’t Die, was released in 1963. It’s hard to believe that we’re talking more than 50 years ago, but there it is. I’ve often wondered if audiences of that era were less demanding or if filmmakers just didn’t bother. I am getting this movie from a set of public-domain movies, so I’m not dealing with the best of the best. I’ll admit to that much. However, this is a pretty bad movie.
Just to be clear, I was born in 1976. There is some historical context lost on me. I’ve always known transplants being relatively safe. To hear a doctor brag about being able to perform transplants isn’t that amazing. I’m not familiar enough with medical history to know when this became the case. I know early transplants were problematic and patients would sometimes live for days or weeks afterwards.
To be fair, though, Bill’s breakthrough is a serum that would eliminate rejection of a donor’s body parts. The plot device allows Bill to save Jan and for the monster in the closet to exist at all. This brings me to another point. How is Jan able to survive? Bill has a time limit, which I’m assuming has something to do with Jan needing to eventually eat. However, without lungs, she can’t breath. She also shouldn’t be able to talk, for that matter.
Then, there’s Doris. I don’t think this character would fly in one of today’s movies. She has a minor scar that’s easily hidden, yet she doesn’t go out much. She’s vain enough to want it removed. If this movie had been made today, we’d need the scar to cover her entire face. Also, Doris apparently hates men only because it was a man who had given her a scar in the first place. Seriously? There might be something that I’m missing there. Being a man hater might have meant something different in the 1960s. That’s something that probably would have been left out entirely in a modern production.
Also, the acting seemed very strange to me. It wasn’t quite stiff and it wasn’t quite overly dramatic. It was almost like something you’d expect from a Saturday Night Live spoof of the movie. I know it’s not fair to apply modern acting standards to movies from other eras. I only mention it because most younger viewers will probably be turned off by it.
I’m not even sure this is a bad thing. This movie doesn’t have too many redeeming qualities. If you’re looking for a movie to pick apart, this is a good one. If you’re a fan of classic sci-fi movies, this might be worth a shot. If you buy a pack of 50 public-domain movies, don’t be surprised if this one is among them.

No comments :