The Brain that Wouldn’t Die (1962)

November 1st, 2021
Author: Meredith Taylor

Dir: Joseph Green || Cast: Jason Evers, Virginia Leith, Anthony La Penna, Adele Lamont | US Horror, 82

This is one of those films that makes me wish you could rate it with an exclamation mark rather than just a numerical score. That truth often surpasses fiction in strangeness is attested to by the fact that clients for cryogenic freezing who haven’t the funds to have their entire bodies frozen can have just their heads placed in storage; so after sixty years this film (like plenty of cheap sci-fi movies) isn’t as far-fetched as it might have seemed at the time.

I have no intention of ploughing through all the 168 reviews so far posted on the IMDb, but no one seems to have noticed that our latter day Frankenstein spends most of this film engaged in the same activity in earnest that Steve Martin later did (with the aid of cleaning fluid; where did I come across that recently?) for laughs in ‘The Man with Two Brains’.

With obviously post-synced dialogue (the scene in a dressing room culminating in a cat-fight sounds as if recorded in an aircraft hanger), but enhanced by location work in Manhattan and Tarrytown in upstate New York and an eerie jazz score arranged by Ed Craig, it was shot in 1959 (and bears a 1960 copyright date) under the title ‘The Black Door’, after which it took a couple of years to briefly hit screens.

It’s attitude to women may seem antediluvian now, but most of the men are a creepy bunch too (especially the photography club and burlesque audiences we see). You expect the heroine to be just a victim; but Virginia Leath shows a remarkable capacity for vindictiveness as the film proceeds to it’s gruesome finale. @Richard Chatten


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