The Brain That Wouldn't Die



The 1962 B&W classic film The Brain That Wouldn't Die starring Herb Evers, Virginia Leith and Leslie Daniels, answers the question of whether it is ethical to assemble your ideal girlfriend. Fortunately, the heyday of 1950s B&W horror films stretched into the early 1960s with such titles as Attack of the Giant Leeches, Alligator People, and several others.

The sensitivity of Joseph Green's direction in this classic deals with a brilliant young chain-smoking surgeon who can fix anything and everyone at his secret palatial laboratory "in the country." He and his beautiful fiancé are driving there for show and tell, when the doc whimsically decides to floor it on a downhill winding road. Naturally the pristine 1959 Ford Galaxy convertible goes through a guardrail and explodes into flames.

The doc is thrown clear, thanks to the fact that seatbelts are not yet standard equipment; however, the girlfriend is inconveniently decapitated. Rats! Not to worry, though, as young Dr. Kildare's colleague wraps the head in his sports coat and staggers all the way to the castle-like laboratory where he and his trusty assistant (who has a withered, failed arm graft from the doc's undergraduate days) places the bandaged head of true love into a tray of liquid blood and nutrients. What a relief!

She's alive, of course, but their marriage could be delayed by this setback. What's a red-blooded guy to do? You guessed it. The doctor starts cruising the streets and hitting the strip clubs and swim suit pageants where eager, voluptuous women extend parts of themselves in his direction. I know, I know, he isn't supposed to do that kind of thing until AFTER he's married. Now he becomes certain that he can improve on the original fiancé model. After all, it's a simple cut-and-sew operation, isn't it?

Meanwhile, back at the lab, the fiancé starts thinking, "You never take me anywhere," and she makes telepathic contact with a failed experiment incarcerated in the closet. Give the doc a break-he's had to learn somewhere how to do this parts work, didn't he? Fortunately, the viewer gets to accompany the doctor on his search to places where women in tight, lumpy dresses make wonderful suggestions, and two of the buxom beauties end up in a high heels, legs-up catfight that is far more important than the plot.

Finally, he discovers an old high school acquaintance who is earning a living as a bikini model for amateur photographers. Sadly, a car accident hideously scarred her face when she was a teenager. When she reveals this face to the omnipotent doctor and the camera, the male viewer instantly knows that she's still better looking than any of the non-scarred girls he's ever seen, much less the two he's dated.

Don't ask--you know that the doc promises to fix her face, takes her to the lab in the middle of the night, and immediately gives her knockout drops in a tumbler of straight bourbon. Women always fall for that old straight whiskey gambit, don't they? Meanwhile, while the doc and the babe were headed for destiny in the country, the fiancé in the roaster pan has done a mind-meld with the thing in the closet while having a "let me die" whinefest with the doc's assistant.

Naturally, she cons the guy into getting close to the food partition in the closet door, and a monstrous hand grabs the assistant. In a symphony of poetic irony, the monster pulls off the assistant's only good arm right at the shoulder socket. I'll bet that smarts, don't you?

Now the doc is nothing if not ethical. He doesn't have his way with the tranquilized babe he brought home; he'll take her downstairs to the lab where he will create the romantic best of both worlds. Unfortunately, as it is in many domestic situations of the day, his fiancé has grown tired of waiting for the doctor to end her misery, and so she has aroused the handyman in the closet to the brink of breaking down the door. Nobody notices that the doc's assistant has left messy smears all over the walls while he was dying, and that can only happen on the maid's day off.

When the doc brings the new girl downstairs to the lab, the situation turns awkward. When his fiancé becomes furious at the idea of a threesome, he uses a time-tested marital conversation aid-a piece of tape across her mouth and preps the nubile patient for the transplant. Little does doc know that his fiancé is sympatico with the thing in the closet, and the monster's growing eagerness to get out draws the doctor to the fateful door.

Yep, the ham hand comes out and grabs the inattentive surgeon-then the door comes off, revealing the early research project that had rated only a C- in transplant school. This heap of mismatched flesh bites the doc in the neck and tears off a large enough chunk to end his medical career.

Of course somebody jostled the eternal Bunsen burner, and the final conflagration in the lab has already started. The doc is dead, the assistant is dead, the roast is bubbling and, in an existential twist, the misbegotten monster scoops up the beauty with the scarred face and carries her up the stairs toward life and the unlikelihood of a sequel.

The end credits changes the title to The Head That Wouldn't Die, and the fiancé is heard echo, getting the last laugh. It's well known that two women can't share the same house, so how can they live in the same body? The message for amorous men is profound, however: Ex partes, omnes!

The End


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