"The Brain That Wouldn't Die"
review by Diablo Joe for Screamfest 2020
The Brain That Wouldn't Die
"The line between genius and madness is a thin one."
Oh, so true. And the line between parody and genius is also a thin one. And "The Brain That Wouldn't Die" manages to straddle all those lines at once.
"The Brain That Wouldn't Die" is a remake-cum-pastiche-cum-parody of the 1962 release and MSTK300/TCM mainstay of the same title. The original film is one of the sleaziest SciFi/horror films ever to come out of the '50s/'60s era (originally shot in 1959, it waited years before release. A film that requires a good, scrubby shower afterward, it's as if sexploitation maven Doris Wishman had remade "Bride of Frankenstein" from a screenplay by Mickey Spillane.
The 2020 film is anything BUT sleazy. It's bright, gaudy, campy and fun, but still manages to bring enough tawdriness to pay tribute to the original. It follows the basic plot of the original. Cocksure medical genius Dr. Bill Cortner is positive he can reap the ultimate medical advance of grafting a human brain to a new body, ensuring life after death. When his beloved fiancé Jan is killed in a car accident, he keeps her head alive, with the intention of finding a suitable body for transplantation. While Cortner is searching his prior failed experiments, assistant Kurt and the Thing in the basement, find Jan's head much too much with which to contend.
"The Brain That Wouldn't Die" director Derek Carl and writer Hank Huffman (working off the original script by Rex Carlton and Joseph Green) have achieved what many filmmakers fail to do. They've recreated a classic genre film in a tongue-in-cheek manner. And, most importantly, they've made it work as a film in and of itself. Even if you don't know the original, "The Brain" is a hilarious, enjoyable film, filled with incredible puns, ridiculous situations, and wonderfully on-point comedic performances. If you DO know the original, it is a film that will knock your head off with inventive fun.
The whole "Brain" company seems to have had a blast making this. Patrick D. Green, as Dr. BillCortner, is allowed to shred the scenery as thoroughly if he was destroying incriminating documents. Ridiculously floppy-haired and handsome, he is perfect as a man who is both a god of medicine and the ladies. Rachael Perrell Fosket is both lovely and fearsome as Jan–body or no. And Robert Blanche (in whose memory the film is dedicated) as Detective Maroni, one of the few characters without an analog to the original movie, brings both a hard-nosed quality and superb comedic timing to his role. The rest of the cast is all spot-on. They nail the pitch needed for their roles and keep the entire film popping with energy.
It's a great-looking film. Wardrobe and set styling are beautiful examples of mid-century-modern style. The camerawork is stylish, fun, and thrilling. Even on an obviously low budget, the filmmakers have created a wonderfully iconic late '50s/early '60s environment. It also SOUNDS great. There's smart use of both library music and, it sounds like, the original film's ironically trashy sax themes working their way through Dr. Cortner's search to find his perfect body for his ideal woman's head. Like the original film, it seems as if his mission is driven by his crotch as much as its head, and the soundtrack supports his efforts.
Anyone fond of the Zucker, Abrahams, and Zucker films–"Airplane," Naked Gun," and others–will find much to love here. To be able to hit that sense of absurdity and smarts is not something that comes easy, but "the Brain" crew pull it off with aplomb. Cheeky, self-referential clips from classic films (including the original "Brain") are interspersed wonderfully into the film. And it wouldn't be "The Brain That Wouldn't Die" if there wasn't a tawdry, gratuitous cat-fight between exotic dancers. Always a welcome thing!
If you’re a fan of the original, you may walk into this film with apprehension, as its namesake’s exquisite bad taste is quite reverentially regarded. The Brain That Wouldn't Die (2020) bows down to that “masterpiece” while staking its own, totally absurd territory. Do yourself a favor, watch the original, bask in its wonderful sleaze, and then give this bright, sassy send-up a spin as a palate-cleanser.
This devil of a reviewer gives The Brain That Wouldn't Die (2020) 4 out of 5 imps