Look What I Found! – The Brain That Wouldn’t Die (1962)

A doctor experimenting with transplant techniques keeps his girlfriend’s head alive when she is decapitated in a car crash, then goes hunting for a new body. (IMDB synopsis)

Lately, I’ve been covering a lot of films that have come out in the last decade or so – which is fine! But I’m taking an extended trip through Horrorland, and I’d like to get the full experience. See ALL the sights. I can’t just take the scenic tour and be done with it.
Anyway, the other day, I was on Wikipedia researching the music video for ‘Dare’ by Gorillaz, and it turns out this film was an inspiration for that video. I’m a bit of a Gorillaz fan, therefore anything that inspires them has to be marvellous.
Also, I found this:

Slugbucket what?
Slugbucket what?


The film’s title is accompanied by some Inception-style chord strikes (yes, I know the Inception guys didn’t invent those, but they certainly perfected them).
Then, a team of surgeons are seen standing over a recent deceased patient. One of them, Bill, asks his father if he can crack on with a few post-mortem experiments, which the man grudgingly allows, saying, “The human body’s not a jigsaw puzzle to be experimented on”. Ah yes, many’s the hour I’d while away as a child, conducting experiments on my jigsaw puzzles… all failures.
Anyway, Bill’s able to bring the patient back through some manual heart massage technique he’s been working on for a whole two weeks, oooOOOOoooH! Obviously, he’s a mad scientist, made clearer in the next scene where we learn that he isn’t above liberating body parts to conduct his experiments on. He also has an adoring fiancee, Jan, to whom I hope nothing terrible happens for her own sake.
The two of them go out for a spin in their automobile, and Bill drives recklessly so as to make it to his country house/makeshift lab/Not Frankenstein’s Evil Lair in double time. This goes just as you might expect and the car crashes. Bill’s apparently ejected through an open window unscathed, and he rolls down a hill to where the burning car wreckage… is… Huh?! Anyway, Jan is trapped inside, and he’s able to rescue her head and bring it up to the lab.
Less than half an hour later, the necessary doo-dahs and various juices are set up to keep Jan’s head alive in a small metal tray. Bill’s going to get make her another body – he has the technology! He can make her better than she was – better, stronger, faster! (Sorry.) And he’ll give her a brain and a heart – and a way back to Kansas! (Sorry again.) But Jan’s not happy with this arrangement, and, well, drama and hilarity ensue.
Now, a few things about this film, The Brain That Wouldn’t Die. First of all, it’s a black-and-white sci-fi/horror B-movie with dubious scientific application. Second of all, immediately after I watched it, I realised that Mystery Science Theatre 3000 had covered the film also, and shortly thereafter watched the episode. I’m also nicking their nickname for the leading lady, which is Jan in the Pan. Hope nobody minds!
Third of all, the title is a tad misleading. It’s not that the brain refuses to die, exactly; it’s that Bill refuses to let it die. Making good on his word to find Jan a new body, he visits the nearby burlesque house, calls upon his attractive female friends and basically goes shopping for an upgrade. One could argue that a better body is as much a present to Jan as it is to Bill, but it’s fairly obvious he doesn’t care one jot about how his fiancee feels. He’ll keep her alive and that’s that.
Now, the man who plays Bill is fine. He has a very strong voice and a kind of effortless charm which goes in his favour, considering Bill wants to trick a lady into coming home with him and then lop off her bonce. But personally, I liked Jan in the Pan better. It’s actually quite hard to act using only your face, and she does an admirable job.
On the other hand, Jan doesn’t have much to do except argue with Bill’s assistant, Kurt, and plot and scheme with another of Bill’s experiments, who’s trapped in the closet. No, he literally is. He’s locked inside a closet; not the other thing. Despite never seeing this patchwork man/Not Frankenstein’s Monster, Jan is convinced that she must be the greater horror of the two, which is rather big-headed of her. (Sorry sorry sorry.) Then again, when the monster finally emerges to attack Bill, it’s only a guy in a poor-quality rubber suit. He looks likes the product of a marriage between woman and vermicious k’nid.
I probably shouldn’t knock the practical effects of a film made in the 1960s – they were only doing the best they could with their budget, and with movie censoring still in place. On the other hand, there’s a serious problem when an assistant’s supposed to have had his arm ripped off by a k’nid thing and I can clearly see said arm under his jacket. Also, the deaths of Kurt and Bill wouldn’t have occured if they hadn’t been foolish enough to leave part of the closet door unlocked! Then, at the end, the place catches on fire for no reason at all, the k’nid carries out Bill’s body donor, and Jan presumably becomes a flash in the pan. (SO very sorry; really, I can’t help myself.)

Final Verdict:

This ends up being a remarkably silly film, and that actually makes it a good one to watch with friends. You probably couldn’t make a drinking game out of it, but it’s still preposterous enough to provide a few good laughs. It just has a tendency to drag at some points, and poor decisions abound. I like it a lot better as a music video. (And I’m sorry about all the corny jokes in this review, but hey: corny jokes for a corny film!)


6 jam sandwiches.


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