Movie Name: The Brain that Wouldn’t Die
Studio: American International Pictures
Release Date(s): May 3, 1962
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
Dr. Bill Cortner (Jason Evers) is a surgeon on the verge of perfecting transplants. While rushing to his laboratory, Bill’s fiancé Jan Compton (Virginia Leith) is killed in an accident. Keeping her disembodied head, Cortner manages to keep the head alive in the hopes of transplanting Jan to a new body. Jan has awakened to other horrors and new powers…and longing for death!
Directed by Joseph Green, The Brain that Wouldn’t Die is a sci-fi horror film. The film was originally intended for release in 1959 under the title of The Black Door (and also sometimes called The Head that Wouldn’t Die) but didn’t receive a release until 1962. The B-Movie was double-billed with Invasion of the Star Creatures in 1962 and featured on Mystery Science Theater 3000 in season five (MST3K #5-13). The movie is in public domain and gained a cult following over the years.
The Brain that Wouldn’t Die is one of those movies that is so cheesy that it becomes good. The visuals and the style of the film (or lack thereof) takes the movie from bad to so-bad-it-is-good. Add in hack acting, and The Brain that Wouldn’t Die is a B-Movie classic.
A lot of The Brain that Wouldn’t Die is science-fiction. The ideas and concepts surrounding transplants is kind of interesting at points seeing how far transplants have come over the last fifty years…there is even talk of officially transplanting a brain. The horror involves the monster created by Cortner’s experiments. I rather wish that the movie had just stuck to the disembodied head, but the monster was probably a necessity to try to find a niche.
The acting is awful; everyone hams it up. Cortner (played by Jason Evers) never comes off as sympathetic or nice and it is a bit confusing if everyone likes him. The “brain” herself Virginia Leith overacts all her scenes…which I guess might be compensation for the fact she can only act with her head and not her body but her crazed look has made the film a cult success.
The visuals for the movie are also minimal. Leith just sits in a box with her head through a hole…it is kind of unclear how she’s able to talk or speak without lungs. In a movie about transplants that tries to take the subject seriously, it is kind of a flaw. The monster at the end of the film also suffers from bad make-up, but fortunately doesn’t have much screentime.
The Brain that Wouldn’t Die is the schlock-y type of horror sci-fi that almost defines the genre. Despite the laughs, it does have staying power and is a part of popular culture. The movie is in public domain and readily available for those wanting to seek it out. The Brain that Wouldn’t Die was turned into a stage musical in 2009 and 2011.
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