HMM Day 6 – MST3K: The Brain That Wouldn’t Die

The year was 1993 in a little town of Trumansburg New York. There on Congress St. was a small three bedroom, two 1/2 bathroom single story home. Inside is a family of five, one being an eleven year old boy sitting on an oval braided rug and playing with his Crash Test dummies toy he received for Christmas the year before. Maybe this Christmas he will get that new Crash Test Dummies Nintendo game he saw at Toys R’ Us, but probably not. Mom and dad never get what he asks for. What the hell is the point of making a list when it gets completely ignored. Either way he is eager because tomorrow is Halloween and today his dad said they could watch a horror movie! The father, a large man with a beard that never quit sits on the floral patterned couch and holds the television remote like a king holds a scepter. He’s popping potato chips in his mouth and tilting the bag for the boy to partake like an alpha wolf allows the young to eat. That boy is me.

Will tonights feature be something truly epic? I heard the new Bram Stokers Dracula is supposed to be on TNT so maybe dad is being cool and letting me see a rated R movie. No, this is far more epic. My dad flips through the channels and stops upon… Comedy Central! Tonight is Mystery Science Theater 3000 which means we’re in a world of shit and hilarity! The feature film we must sit through it none other than 1962’s The Brain That Wouldn’t Die! For dramatic emphasis it would be best for you readers to now say “BUM BUMM BUMMMMMMM!”

The Brain That Wouldn’t Die is a 1962 science fiction horror movie directed by Joseph Green and starring Jason Evers, Virginia Leith, Anthony La Penna and Eddie Carmel. It was released as a double feature and received terrible reviews.

The Brain That Wouldn’t Die

The movie is about a mad scientist named Dr. Bill Cortner that has discovered the key to re-animating dead tissue. As he is driving through the country he and his fiance Jan are in a tragic accident. Bill survives but her his dear pretty love Jan is horribly killed with her head severed. But Bill will not let his love go! He retrieves her head and brings Jan back from death with no body. Now it is up to Bill to find a replacement body before Jans head expires!

If Re-Animator is the Frankenstein film of the Bronze Age then The Brain That Wouldn’t Die would be the Silver Age one. This schlocky “it’s so bad its good” horror film is full of some of the worst pacing and corniness in any movie. Throw in the raving commentary of Mike, Tom Servo and Crow T. Robot From Mystery Science Theater 3000 and it’s actually a pretty awesome time. I grew up on MST3K and I think a large part of my love for all horror history is because of this show.

MST3K

For anyone that doesn’t know what Mystery Science Theater 3000 is… which means “anyone without a soul” then let explain. MST3K was a show that began in the late 80’s where a guy named Joel was shot into space by his evil employers. They contact him every episode and give him a cheesy movie to watch. Joel and his robot friends watch the movie and interject jokes throughout the movie in attempts to make fun of the picture. The entire production is cheaply made and a satire on itself but within this degraded quality resides its comical success. The character Joel has been replaced through the years and so has the evil antagonists but the gist of the show remains the same. The show aired until 1996 but through a strong cult following, has been brought back. Right now you can find new MST3K episodes on Netflix.

As much as their commentary makes me laugh while watching, I can’t help but actually appreciate and love The Brain That Wouldn’t Die. No seriously, it’s a great movie! Great in that “it’s so bad its good” kind of way. I don’t know what it is about movies like this. It’s like we desire to see something bad, because we love the cheesiness and terrible writing. The Brain That Wouldn’t Die is so odd and makes very little sense. How the hell does a human head talk without a set of lungs and why for some reason would it get telepathic powers to a… a monster living in a locked room?

Yea, I just blew your mind! The doctor not only brings his girlfriends dead head back to life and he goes out to kill some women to hack up and make his own Frankenstein creation! He also has a monster living in his basement. It’s one of his old test subjects and this thing is pissed! Let me just remind you that at this point you can feel the director is dead serious about this movie and so are the actors.

But even then I can’t help but notice how its full of great gore and grotesque subject matter. There’s an underlying creepiness to the film and not because there is a woman’s head being kept alive in a basement. As the doctor saves the head, he prepares to go out on the town to find a body. He goes to night clubs to find a victim which sets an odd tone throughout the movie. The entire time the doctor is hunting for a victim there is this eerily smooth jazz playing called ‘The Web.’ It sets this tone off like everything is warped or skewed. I actually thought there was something wrong with the sound until I heard the actual song.

We Progress To The End

As the doctor is out looking, Jan is making a bigger bond with the monster and eventually all hell brakes loose. The monster kills Bills assistant Kurt, which is the highlight of the entire movie. He rips off Kurts arm and this is actually pretty gruesome. Then Bill returns home with a girl and knocks her out. But then the monster brakes free and bites Bills neck killing him. This is the climax and being a kid raised on The Goonies, I couldn’t help but notice this monster looks like Sloth!

So he sets fire to the building and carries the passed out girl out of the building. He helps by finally giving Jans head the rest of death she has been wanting. Even though Bill is dead, she is still pissed and says “I told you to let me die!”

So thats the movie and by the end you should be laughing hysterically. But guess what, you love the movie! To be honest, I always view this movie as if it’s Frankenstein. But instead of the monster and the doctor dying in a fiery blaze on a windmill. The doctor moves to America and becomes a famous surgeon. He changes his name, keeps the monster hidden in his basement, replaces Fritz with Kurt and makes Jan his new bride. It all makes sense.

Regardless, it is an enjoyable film in which you can love the cheesiness of the entire thing. I do love the acting of Virginia Leith as Jan. She does a great job at making us feel her pain and anguish. You can hear it in every word she speaks through out the movie. But the film reminds us that good horror doesn’t have to always be mind blowing or serious and to throw that great Mystery Science theater spice into makes it even better. So on this day six of my Horror Movie Marathon, go watch MST3K: The Brain That Wouldn’t Die and enjoy a good laugh.

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