Thursday, 9 April 2015
The Brain That Wouldn't Die (1962)
Some versions of this film - and even the end credits of this one - substitute the word 'Head' for 'Brain' in the title. Which is actually more accurate to the events of the movie, but somehow slightly less macabre-sounding.
Filmed in 1959, but not released for three years - that sort of delay is rarely a good sign - this is the tale of Doctor Bill Cortner, a brilliant but not exactly ethical surgeon who is experimenting with sophisticated techniques. His ultimate goal is to allow the wholesale transplant of major limbs and organs.
Cortner's about to need all of his research, because his reckless driving leads to a terrible car accident. He is thrown clear, unhurt, but his fiancee Jan is decapitated. Through the magic of movie science, he is somehow able to carry her severed head to his destination and use a 'special formula' to preserve her life.
Jan's first words on recovering consciousness - presumably Cortner also made her artificial lungs or something so she could speak, though the movie doesn't say of course - are "Let me die." This is hardly a positive sign, one might think, but the not-so-good Doctor has no intention of honouring the request. Instead, he plans to find a new body for her and transplant her head onto it. He's not too bothered about whether some other head is currently attached to that body, either.
So the bulk of the movie is given over to Cortner's search for a new body, which - entirely coincidentally, of course - requires the film to feature lots of attractive young women in skimpy outfits, as he canvasses burlesque shows, swimsuit competitions, and finally a figure model. This is the principal protagonist of the film, mind you (clearly it would be inappropriate to call him the hero).
Of course, Jan's attitude toward the whole situation hasn't changed one iota, and while it may seem that there's not much she can do as a disembodied head, her strange circumstances may in fact have provided her with an unexpected power of her own ...
This is a cheap and rather insipidly sleazy bit of movie-making whose most sympathetic character is the figure model we meet near the end. There's not much point in wasting your time with it.