Thursday, May 05, 2011

The Brain That Wouldn't Die

The Brain That Wouldn't Die is a movie with a lesson. Two lessons actually: (1) Do not drive fast on country roads, and (2) Under no circumstances reanimate your girlfriend's decapitated head: see also.

When a patient flatlines on the operating table Dr. Bill Cortner (Herb Evers) demands that his experimental procedure is used to revive the man. This involves, as best I could tell, sticking a soldering iron in the fellow's brain. But it does the trick. "I may not approve of your methods," says his father and fellow surgean. "But I like your results."

But an urgent call from the doctor's mountain lab summons him away from the hospital. So he speeds through the hills, girlfriend at his side, until... The ensuing wreck throws Cortner from the car. Jan (Virginia Leith) is not so lucky. Fortunately, the quick-witted doctor snatches up her severed head and continues on to the lab with it.

You see, the doctor doesn't play by the rules. He's a rebel, pushing the limits of science and medicine, all for the good of man. Or, perhaps, he's just nuts. The thing is, his experiments work. Sort of. He throws Jan's head in a pan of an experimental fluid, and before you know it, she's come back to life. Sure, she's got no body, but hey, Cortner has a plan for that too.

All he has to do is find a donor. So, he starts to search high and low for a suitable woman to attach Jan's head to. And despite the fact he's only got two days at most to get himself a live body, he leisurely trolls strip clubs, making nice with potential victims. "Sense of urgency" is not in his vocabulary.

Of course, Jan isn't too happy being just a head, nor does she want another person murdered so she can get back on her (someone's?) feet. And the thing is, the fluid isn't without its side effects. See, Jan has developed psychic powers and has begun communicating with the beast in the lab's closet: one of the doctor's previous experiments, a horror cobbled together from stolen body parts.

The two have revenge on their mind. When the doctor returns to his lab with suitable donor, things don't go quite as planned.

This is not a very good film, really. There's too much padding, too much silliness. Too much time spent in titty bars. But Virginia Leith's performance as Jan in the Pan is rather fun. It's clear she's enjoying herself playing the conniving, demented, decapitated noggin, and her dialogue is priceless. Too bad the rest of the movie sucks.

Directed by Joseph Green • Unrated • 1962 • 82 minutes

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