Forgotten Films: The Brain That Wouldn’t Die (1962)

The Brain That Wouldn't Die: It's bad but not Plan 9 bad.

By Scott A . Cupp

This is the 144th my series of Forgotten, Obscure or Neglected Films

I hope everyone had a great Thanksgiving! Sandi and I did our usual thing of having some old friends over then we went down to the Riverwalk and did the Thanksgiving buffet at the Hilton Palacio del Rio. Great food, great company and conversation, and some not-so-great football afterwards.

As we were doing all of this, I was reminded of the old Mystery Science Theater 3000 Thanksgiving Turkey marathons and remembered that I had this lovely film queued up on my DVR. Somehow when the MST3K folks showed this, I always ended up missing it, so I went in unsullied.

I got this off of Turner Classic Movies (the wonderful TCM, perhaps the greatest channel on cable). Ben Mankiewicz, one of the TCM hosts, did an introduction where he mentioned that some films are just so bad that they can achieve cult status. This is one of them.

Dr. Bill Cortner (Jason Evers, though he was billed as Herb Evers) is a brilliant but flawed surgeon. He is assisting his father (Bruce Brighton) when the patient died. After his father gives up, Bill asks to try something on him and manages to bring the corpse back to life. Bill has been doing some experimentation on transplanting human tissue, though not through normal research channels. The hospital has been missing parts and pieces from the morgue and the elder Dr. Cortner feels that Bill has probably been committing the thefts.

Bill receives a message that there is a problem at his mountain cottage. He decides that he needs to go there and takes his lovely fiancée Jan Compton (Virginia Leith) with him. On the way, after a truly boring series of moving vehicle and traffic sign shots, there is an accident. Bill is thrown from his convertible. Dazed he returns to the burning car and finds Jan has been decapitated. He wraps the head up in his jacket and walks/staggers some distance (probably miles) to his cabin where he hooks the head up to a contraption.

He is helped with the head installation by Kurt (Anthony LaPenna, billed as Leslie Daniels. I guess nobody wanted to use their real name…). Jan wakes up and finds she is a disembodied head, sitting in a pan of liquid. She must have suffered some brain damage from oxygen deprivation during the period when she was being transported to the cabin because she just wants to die.

Bill wants to transplant her head onto a new beautiful body, because he wants a beautiful wife. So, obviously, this means going to strip clubs to find a woman he can then kill and transplant Jan’s head onto it. So we get several scenes of Bill talking up strippers, trying to determine who he can kill without anyone recognizing him or remembering him as the last one being with them.

He gets talked into judging a bathing suit contest where one of the strippers reminds him of Doris Powell (Anne Lamont) who is now only working as a photo club model who keep a portion of her face covered to hide a disfiguring scar. Great body and scarred face = potential murder victim.

Jan, meanwhile, has been talking to something — the thing that Bill and Kurt have previously experimented on — and is being held captive in a locked closet. Jan wants nothing to do with the murder/transplant and is communicating with the closet thing. As you might expect, things do not go as planned and Bill, the mad scientist, does not accomplish his murder.

The dialogue gets pretty florid or awful or both. The story was developed by Joseph Green (the director and screenplay author) and Rex Carlton (the producer). Special effects are pretty weak. The strippers are pretty. The film was originally shot under the title The Black Door according to IMDB. According to Ben Mankiewicz in his intro to the film, the original release title was going to be The Head That Wouldn’t Die and that this was not changed on some of the end credits.

The version TCM showed ran just under 70 minutes. Apparently the original release was 82 minutes which included a great deal of gore not shown in the film I saw.

It’s a bad film – maybe not Manos or Plan 9 bad, but still not good. So I’m glad I got to see it and without the MST3K dialogue, though I would like to see that now. Well, maybe not now, but sometime.

Series organizer Todd Mason hosts more Tuesday Forgotten Film reviews at his own blog and posts a complete list of participating blogs.


Forgotten Films: The Robot Versus the Aztec Mummy (1958)

It's got a mummy, it's got a robot; what else ya need?

By Scott A. Cupp

This is the 135th my series of Forgotten, Obscure or Neglected Films

Some three and a half years ago or so, I reviewed The Aztec Mummy as the 16th Forgotten Film in my series of reviews. TCM recently broadcast the third in the series so I decided, “What the heck? Let’s do the third one this time. Nobody will know the difference, particularly since the second one ignored a lot of the continuity anyway.”

The film begins with a lengthy recap of the first film where Dr. Eduardo Almada (Ramon Gay) and his wife Flor (Rosa Arenas) reprise their roles as a scientist who hypnotically regresses his wife to relive her life as an Aztec priestess Xochitl who defied the gods with her lover Popoca (Angel Di Stefani) in defiance of the gods. Popoca is turned into a living mummy who guards the tomb of Xochitl and her golden breastplate and bracelet, which tell people how to find an ancient Aztec treasure.

In the original film, the evil Bat, a murderous pseudonym used by Dr. Krupp (Luis Aceves Castañeda) tries to steal the treasure but is defeated by the mummy. Well, here he is back again, having escaped certain death just as if he was in a ’30s serial. Here he hypnotizes Flor and has her lead him to the mummy because she can mentally “hear” him. She runs around in a nightgown while leading Dr. Krupp, of course.

The Bat is intent on building a human robot (Adolfo Rojas) with intelligence to fight the Mummy and handle the theft of the breastplate and bracelet because he knows he cannot beat the mummy by himself. The robot looks like a large silver box and some pipes thrown together with a human head inside. Or, as one reviewer said, something a couple of grips threw together on their lunch break.

When you're hankering for something truly bad...

They find the mummy in a mausoleum and bring about the fight promised in the tile when the breastplate and bracelet are removed. The fight is somewhat short since the mummy doesn’t talk and the robot doesn’t either.  The robot doesn’t stand a chance against Aztec magic and Flor gives the goods back to the mummy and tells him to guard them well and go back to his sleep.

Thankfully, the film is short, clocking in at 65 minutes. Short but not too sweet. It was the perfect thing to watch after seeing my beloved Texas Longhorns lose another game in the final minute to a special team’s kicking error.

While the film was made in Mexico and in Spanish, it was brought to the U.S. by entrepreneur K. Gordon Murray, where it was dubbed (badly) in English. The dubbing apparently had little to do with the original story. The dubbing led to this story being presented by the Mystery Science Theater 3000 crew in 1989 as their second offering in their first season on the Comedy Channel.

I love movie soundtracks but this one is intrusive and annoying so you can skip this.

So, if you’re in the mood for a bad movie, this is one. It’s got all the cheesy parts of the first film as well as a robot and extended flashbacks. The films are pretty readily available either individually or as a collection. The set of three are under $20.

Try them. You may like them. If you do, please consult your mental health professionals.

Series organizer Todd Mason hosts more Tuesday Forgotten Film reviews at his own blog and posts a complete list of participating blogs.