31 Nights of Halloween Horror: Part 10 in a 31 part series. Join me for 31 nights of horror reviews in the month of October. Every night we’ll take a look at a different horror film, some old and some new. Tonight we’re talking about:
The Brain That Wouldn’t Die
Dir. Joesph Green
1962 – USA
My original intention was to talk about a movie called Bloody Bloody Bible Camp, sounds fun right? As I started watching within the first 5 seconds I realized this is a parody of slasher films from the 80s. I am sorry to say, two things I do not like are movies that are intentionally stupid for laughs, especially spoofing a horror film and I am not a huge fan of the slasher genre. In good conscious I could not write an article to just bash a stupid movie. That would serve no purpose, we are here to try and discover new horror or rediscover some horror classics.
So instead I chose to rediscover a sci-fi horror classic, one of my favorites from the era, The Brain That Wouldn’t Die. The premise is quite simple for this film. An experimental transplant surgeon keeps his girlfriend’s head alive after she is decapitated in a car accident. He spends the rest of the movie trying to find a suitable body to add to his girlfriend’s head. Trying to find the perfect body he heads to strip clubs, beauty contests and chases models around before he finally settles on one he likes. During this whole time his girlfriend’s head speaks out how she doesn’t want a body, she doesn’t want to live anymore, she wants to die. Yes a decapitated head talks, without having a set of lungs or anything. Hey in 50s sci-fi anything is possible, (this film was made in 1959 and not released until 1962 due to some controversy and legal reasons). Anyway somehow the severed head makes a telepathic link with a creature, presumably one of the doctor’s failed experiments, locked behind a door in the lab. The monsters are generally the good guys in this film, the doctors are mad and really there are no true winners by the end. Not even us for watching it. I am kidding, this is one of those so bad it is good films, the dialogue and acting is extra cheesy like from the dollar store, the sets are as cheap as wearing your underwear inside out so you can get an extra day out of it and the effects of the monster while somewhat startling in the 50s can come across laughable today.
So why do I love this movie so much when most people will find it silly and hate something like Bloody Bloody Bible Camp that is intended to be silly. Quite simply because The Brain That Wouldn’t Die was never meant to be a joke. Yes of course it was pushed out quickly to make a buck from teenagers in the theaters so it probably wasn’t regarded as anything more then just another sci-fi horror film, but it was also meant to scare the little kids who got to see it, and I bet in the early 60s it was quite successful at that. Also the film had its share of scantily clad ladies, which when this was shot was not a very proper or common thing to find in films. In the stills on the DVD extras, there is actually a shot of a topless woman that does not appear in the film, so they were definitely pushing the envelope with this one. And then there is Jan, the decapitated head kept alive on a tray surrounded by beakers and other laboratory gadgets. As a kid I was enamored by this concept, such a great still from a horror movie. I wanted a decapitated head on a tray in my room! The Brain That Doesn’t Die doesn’t insult its audience it doesn’t try and play dumb where as Bloody Bloody Bible Camp can only get a laugh by trying to be as stupid as it possibly can. Stupid humor is about as cheap and low as you can go in the comedy department. Real humor is just as hard to accomplish as a real scare. Oddly enough comedy and horror go very hand in hand because they both bring out of us two different ends of the spectrum. Good humor is as hard to write and put across as a good scare is and yet it is very difficult to mix the two together successfully.
So this Halloween season we should all watch at least one older black and white monster movie, let us not forget our roots and what our parents grew up on. If you want a suggestion, The Brain That Wouldn’t Die is one of my favorites, it is fast paced enough with a large dose of 50s camp to keep you interested. Decapitated talking heads and a monster at the end. You can’t really ask for much more then that.