The Brain That Wouldn’t Die (1962)

Article #1441 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 2-23-2005
Posting Date: 7-23-2005
Directed by Joseph Green
Featuring Jason Evers, Verginia Leith, Leslie Daniels

A scientist experimenting with transplants manages to save and keep alive the head of his fiancee after a car accident, and then embarks on a plan to find a new body for her.


1) There seems to be a great deal of affection out there for this sleazy, exploitative horror movie, probably for the very reason that it is so sleazy and exploitative. I myself am not a fan of exploitation per se, so it should be no surprise that I do not look on this movie with affection. Still, there are some points to be made for good and bad, so I’ll touch upon those.

2) On the positive side, the movie does manage to work up a certain amount of tension. In particular, the monster in the closet is handled in such a way that it lets your imagination run wild as to how horrible it is. And when it finally appears, it isn’t a total disappointment, even if it looks a bit too lumpy.

3) If the movie is a pioneer of anything, I think it would be in the field of gore. There were movies with gory scenes before this one, but this was one of the first in which the gore was truly excessive; the movie wallows in its bloody scenes. The death of Kurt in particular stretches on far longer than is necessary; in fact, the initial shock gives way to giggles before he finally expires.

4) The biggest problem I have with the movie is its inability to decide just how it wants to be taken. Is it straight horror? Straight exploitation? Comic exploitation? A philosophical treatise on science? The movie tries all these things and never achieves a decent balance, and the jumps back and forth are annoying.

5) The movie is also devoid of likable characters. This in itself wouldn’t be a problem if it weren’t for the fact that all of the characters are potentially likable. The scientist is desperate to save the life of his loved one, but his sleazy predatory search for the woman with the right body renders him unpleasant. The fiancee who has been reduced to a single head could easily engender our sympathy if it weren’t for the fact that she wallows in bitterness and ugly vengeance. The assistant with the withered arm who dreams of having it replaced with a good arm is too condescending and sarcastic to garner much sympathy. And we fail to care for the model with the scarred face because of her stupid bitterness and the incidental fact that the actress playing her gives the worst performance in the movie.

6) I’m also a little annoyed that two of the characters who die in the movie do so as a result of their own monumental stupidity. They have a ferocious monster locked in a closet, and there’s a small latched opening in the closet door through which they give it food. They both unlatch (or leave unlatched) that opening, and then blithely turn their backs on it so that the monster can reach out for them. I wonder if they also stick forks in toasters while standing in puddles.

7) One thing that really drives me crazy is the jokiness of some of the scenes. While the scientist is stalking several of the women, he constantly finds his machinations foiled by the appearance of a potential witness who would be able to identify him as the last person to be with the woman in question. He always abandons his prey, but usually with some sort of clumsy ironical comment that he says aloud for all to hear, even though the comment often makes no sense unless you realize that he’s planning on killing someone. This kind of jokiness renders the movie highly unpleasant.

8) Near the beginning of the movie, the injured scientist scoops up head of his beloved, wraps it in a towel, and runs several miles with it as if he’s rushing for the goal line in a football game. No comment.

9) At one point, two large breasted women have a drop-down knockout fight. We then see two hanging of cats on the wall. Someone goes “Meow”. No comment.

10) This movie is in public domain. Several places that advertise it claim they have the rare “complete” version of the movie with all the gore. Now, despite the fact that I care little for this movie, I have it several times over in my collection (due to my passion for collecting boxed sets with lots of movies in them), and every single version of them I’ve seen has the complete gory sequences in question. I’m beginning to think that it’s the prints without the gory sections that are the rare ones.

At least they never made a sequel.


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