The Brain That Wouldn't Die
(also known as The Head That Wouldn't Die
) is a 1962 American Science fiction film/horror film directed by Joseph Green and written by Green and Rex Carlton.<></> The film was completed in 1959 under the working title The Black Door
but was not released until May 3, 1962, when it was renamed.< name=afi></>< name=mcgee></> The main plot focuses upon a mad doctor who develops a means to keep human body parts alive. He must eventually use his discovery on someone close to him, and chaos ensues.
Dr. Bill Cortner (Jason Evers) is a successful surgeon who has just saved a patient pronounced dead in the emergency room — a patient of his father (Bruce Brighton) — with an unorthodox surgical method. After the younger Cortner and his beautiful fiancée Jan Compton (Virginia Leith) are involved in a fiery car accident that decapitates Jan, Cortner collects her severed head and rushes it to his home basement laboratory, where he revives it and manages to keep it alive in a liquid-filled tray.
Cortner now decides to commit murder to obtain an attractive Head transplant. As he hunts for a suitable specimen at a burlesque bar that night and on the street the next day, Jan begins to hatch a murderous plan. Filled with hatred for Cortner because he won't let her die, she communicates telepathy with a hideous mutant in the laboratory cell, telling it to kill the scientist.
The mutant monster begins by mortally wounding the doctor's assistant, Kurt; after feeding the monster and doing some general cleanup around the laboratory, he unwittingly stands before the hatch in the door of the monster's cell (which he left unlocked), whereupon the monster thrusts his giant arm through and tears the assistant's arm off.
In the meantime, Cortner brings figure model Doris Powell to his residence under the pretense of studying her scarred face for a promised Plastic surgery, and, drugging her drink so that she loses consciousness, carries her down to the laboratory. Jan protests when Cortner explains his plan to transplant her head onto this new body, and he summarily tapes her mouth shut.
Dr. Cortner then stands in front of the door to the monster's cell, with the hatch again left open. This time, the monster grabs the scientist through the door and, securing him in a headlock, applies such force that the door is torn from its hinges. The monster is finally revealed as a seven-foot giant with a horribly deformed head, presumably the result of various failed transplants and/or other surgeries, and, in a scene that is often (if jumpily) edited out of television broadcasts, subsequently bites a chunk of flesh out of Cortner's neck. In the process, the laboratory is set ablaze; Cortner lies dead on the floor and the monster carries the unconscious Doris away to safety. As the lab goes up in flames, Jan is heard saying "I told you to let me die" followed by a maniacal cackle.<></>
- Jason Evers as Dr. Bill Cortner
- Virginia Leith as Jan Compton
- Leslie Daniels as Kurt
- Adele Lamont as Doris Powell
- Bonnie Sharie as Blonde Stripper
- Paula Maurice as Brunet Stripper
- Marilyn Hanold as Peggy Howard
- Bruce Brighton as Dr. Cortner
- Arny Freeman as Photographer
- Fred Martin as Medical Assistant
- Lola Mason as Donna Williams
- Doris Brent as Nurse
- Bruce Kerr as Beauty Contest M.C.
- Audrey Devereal as Jeannie Reynolds
- Eddie Carmel as Monster
- Sammy Petrillo as Art
The film was shot independently around Tarrytown, New York in 1959 under the working title The Black Door
. Some prints of the film use both the opening title The Brain That Wouldn't Die
and the closing title The Head That Wouldn't Die
The monster in the closet is played by Eddie Carmel in his first "cinematic role". Carmel was a well-known Israeli-born circus performer who worked under the name "The Jewish Giant". He was the subject of a photograph by Diane Arbus, titled "The Jewish Giant at Home with His Parents in the Bronx, NY, 1970".< name="SoundPortraits"></>
The score, titled "The Web", was composed by Abe Baker and Tony Restaino and was noted for creating a sinister mood.< name=mcgee/>
The movie was picked up for release by AIP and released in 1962 on a double bill with Invasion of the Star Creatures
. AIP cut it for theatrical release.< name="gary"/>
An uncut, 35mm print was used in the Special Edition release by Synapse Films in 2002. Running 85 minutes, this version features more of the stripper catfight, as well as some extra gore.
The Mystery Science Theater 3000
version of the film (along with the uncut version, included as a bonus feature) was released by Rhino Entertainment. On November 26, 2013, Shout! Factory re-released the MST3K
version as a bonus feature part of its 25th Anniversary DVD boxed set. The Cinema Insomnia
version was released on DVD by Apprehensive Films.< name="The Crippled Masters"></> This film was the first movie watched by Mike Nelson (character) in Mystery Science Theater 3000
(episode 513). Jan in the Pan
is the irreverent nickname given to the female lead by the characters on the show.
The movie first became a stage musical in October 2009 with The Brain That Wouldn't Die: A New Musical,
produced at the Overtime Theater in San Antonio, Texas. The world premiere musical comedy was a collaboration between composer Phillip Luna and writer/lyricist Jon Gillespie.<></>
The movie also the inspired the musical stage production, The Brain That Wouldn't Die! In 3D!!!
by T Sivak and E Gelman, that premiered at the New York Musical Theatre Festival in October 2011.<></>
In popular culture
The film was featured on the nationally syndicated horror host televisions Cinema Insomnia.< name="CinemaInsomnia.com"></> The host segments revolved around the horror host Mr. Lobo finding a suitable flower pot for his co-host and houseplant Miss Mittens.< name="The Brain That Wouldn't Die on cinemainsomniatv"></>
In the 2002 video game No One Lives Forever 2: A Spy In H.A.R.M.'s Way, two guards turned into "man crates" are having a conversation. One of them quotes the movie's most famous line ("Like all quantities, horror has its ultimate, and I am that!"), and the other recognizes it and adds, "I never thought I would ever relate to Jan in the Pan."
Aspiring horror actresses who appeared as contestants on the MTV series Scream Queens reenacted one of the scenes from the film. In the fourth episode of the first season, contestants reenacted the scene in which Jan voices her hatred for the doctor as part of a challenge.<></>
On November 9, 2010, the band Black Cards released a music video for their song "Club Called Heaven" based on the film.< name="Black Cards on YouTube"></>
Jan In the Pan: Soliloquies and Dyads in "The Brain That Wouldn't Die" (Essay in PostModernJoan.com: Film History, Theory and Musings)
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Category:1962 horror films
Category:1960s science fiction films
Category:American horror films
Category:American independent films
Category:American International Pictures films
Category:Directorial debut films
Category:Films featured in Mystery Science Theater 3000 episodes
Category:Films shot in New York
Category:Mad scientist films