The Brain That Wouldn’t Die (1962)

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*. I wonder if the theme seemed as depressing in 1962 as it is today. Isn’t this a movie about the right to die and assisted suicide? How sad is poor Jan’s case?
*. Yes, it’s a terrible movie. But though cheap in an awkward way (dig that car crash!), and with some really clumsy editing throughout, it’s nevertheless full of those bizarre touches that elevate it to great bad movie status.
*. Take the script. Were the 1960s the last decade of really literate screenwriting? Of course there are still great screenwriters doing wonderful work, but do today’s Grade Z crapfests have lines like this: “No, my deformed friend, like all quantities, horror has it’s ultimate. And I am that.”
*. On the subject of great bad movies, this one got a nomination in the Medveds’s Golden Turkey Awards as one of the “Most Brainless Brain Movies of All Time.” The synopsis, however, is faulty to the point of giving the impression that neither of the authors had actually seen the movie. For example, the car accident is said to occur “during one romantic, moonlit romp to a local cemetery.” In fact the accident occurs in broad daylight, and they are on the way to Dr. Cortner’s magnificent country house. Then later, Dr. Cortner’s assistant Kurt is described as Jan’s “brother.” Where did that come from?
*. Virginia Leith as “Jan in the Pan” (as she’s been dubbed) is actually pretty good in a limited role. And I like how she seems to need no time at all to adjust to being a disembodied head. As soon as she regains consciousness she is plotting her revenge.
*. Despite this, the confrontation between Jan and Doctor Bill is much delayed. They only see each other for the first time after the accident with less than ten minutes left in the movie. And then when they do come face to face they initially have nothing at all to say to each other.
*. I don’t think their relationship was going anywhere, and it’s hard to understand why Bill wants to revive it except to prove that he can do it.
*. “It’s getting awfully warm in here,” the “model” says as she takes off her jacket and gloves in a seated striptease, just before the doctor drugs her. Obviously there’s something exploitative here, even if you’re not watching the “European” cut of the film with the semi-nude modeling sequence. I think having a catfight between strippers gives the game away.
*. Probably the most disturbing aspect of the movie is Doctor Bill’s leering hunt for the perfect body. There is something of the psycho-stalker in these scenes.  Bad enough that he performs such monstrous experiments in his basement, but to be a lech as well seems overkill. Science and sexuality are a dangerous mix . . . or are they in some creepy way complementary?

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