The Brain That Wouldn't Die (1962)



(director/writer: Joseph Green; screenwriter: from a story by Rex Carlton and Joseph Green; cinematographer: Stephen Hajnal; editor: Leonard Anderson/Marc Anderson; music: Abe Baker/Tony Restaino; cast: Herb Evers (Dr. Bill Cortner), Virginia Leith (Jan Compton), Leslie Daniels (Kurt), Adele Lamont (Doris Powell), Marilyn Hanold (Peggy Howard), Bruce Brighton (Dr. Cortner), Lola Mason (Donna), Bonnie Sharre (The Queen); Runtime: 81; MPAA Rating: NR; producers: Rex Carlton/Mort Landberg; American International Pictures; 1962)

“Z-budget cheapie exploitation mad scientist film from AIP.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

Z-budget cheapie exploitation mad scientist film from AIP. It’s written and directed by Joseph Green (“Yiddle With His Fiddle”), from a sleazy story by Green and Rex Carlton.

After a car crash, the arrogant and egotistical intern surgeon/research scientist Dr. Bill Cortner (Herb Evers) brings his scientist fiancée Jan Compton (Virginia Leith) back from the dead by saving her decapitated head and keeping it alive on a dish through various drugs and life-support equipment in his secret country estate lab–reserved for Frankenstein-like experiments. Since her brain still functions and she can speak, Dr. Bill orders his lab assistant Kurt (Leslie Daniels), a former surgeon who after an accident mangled his arm stays with mad scientist Bill because he’s promised a transplant as a result of these unconventional experiments, to watch Jan’s disembodied head while he shops around in town to get his love a new body. Jan now goes bonkers and thinks Bill is a nasty wacko and pleads with him to let her die, but he abducts a former school chum now a photographer’s model with a beautiful body named Doris Powell (Adele Lamont). She’s an embittered manhater because she’s been disfigured by a man. Dr. Bill could care less about her and forges ahead to use her bod to graft onto Jan.

Things get even more twisty when Jan learns she now possesses telepathic powers and is able to communicate with an experiment gone wrong in Dr. Bill’s previous operation, who is unseen behind a locked closet. The creature gets out of the closet with Jan’s encouragement and sets the place on fire. Only Doris escapes.

The acting by the cast of mostly television bit players was atrocious, the directing is awkward, the dialogue is the pits and that scene of the car wreck might be the worst shot car accident ever. But it’s probably entertaining for those who get their jollies from bad films that relish in gore and sleaze. Though others might find it risible and in bad taste, it’s hard to completely dislike a film that is so perversely entertaining and has no redeeming social values but is funny in all the wrong ways.

This film never comes close to the king of the arty gore films: Georges Franju’s 1959 Eyes without a Face, but it compares favorably with same-themed exploitation flicks like They Saved Hitler’s Brain (1964). The film has become a source of parody on television’s Mystery Science Theater 3000 (it ran from 1988 to 1999).