I have to admit that I really love these campy 60s sci-fi/horror films that, as the decades come and go, become more like a comedy film. Although I know they were originally intended to be spooky, they are just plain awful. I reviewed "The Beast Of Yucca Flats" recently, and it was perhaps one of the cheesiest (and ultimately, one of the worst) films that I had ever encountered. It bore a silly premise that could not be understood, acting that could force viewers to regurgitate their internal goods, and an overall low-budget atmosphere. To say that this also describes "The Brain That Wouldn't Die" would not be unjustified, but this film is not quite as deplorable as the former.
The plot of this movie is essentially very simple, but the science behind it is not explained in proper detail. Here's the scoop: the possibly nutty Dr. Bill Cortner, a man who researches and experiments with human body parts at his private laboratory, is in a car accident with his fiancée, Jan. She is pretty much killed while he was ejected from the car (and ends up rolling pretty far down a hill). He scrambles back to the burning car, wraps the girlfriend's head in a coat, and runs back to his laboratory (which may or may not have been nearby). Placing the head in a pool of wacky black liquid (Simulated blood, perhaps? Or liquid taffy?) and hooking up countless tubes and electrodes to her, in hopes of keeping her alive while he scours the town in search of a living body to harvest for his fiancée's decapitated li'l noggin. Whether or not this is actually possible is uncertain but also irrelevant, as this entire movie's premise is unbelievable anyway. How the HEAD managed to still be conscious is very confusing, but even more unusual is the fact that it can talk without lungs, it also makes loud breathing noises. Whaaa?
Oh yes, and there's a hideous creature compiled from a variety of spare body parts locked away in a room in the laboratory (played by Eddie Carmel, a rather tall circus novelty).
The sad part is that Dr. Cortner actually finds a victim (not a willing victim), a model who poses in skimpy clothing. With some coaxing, he takes her back to his place which is connected to the laboratory. What convenience! He puts some sort of drug into her drink, knocking her unconscious, and then of course he can begin the procedure. Meanwhile, that head's still there, yammering away about how it should be dead, talking to the monster in the locked closet. I won't give away the ending, but needless to say, the plans pretty much fall through.
The entire movie is half science-fiction, half sleaze. While it is generally clear that the prime focus is on the goings-on at the laboratory (and occasionally the inane ramblings of the oft-annoying decapitated head), sometimes the film shifts gears suddenly, looking at Dr. Cortner's observance of pretty women in scantily-clad bathing gear. It results in a jarring sequence of events with a broken flow, detracting from the overall brain-tastic experience! It was also possibly risqué for the early '60s to be showing such costume skimpiness (plus a bonus cat-fight between two beauty pageant contestants, although I believe it is absent from my version of the film).
The acting in this movie is... well... very typical of a B-movie, to say the least. Occasionally you get some decent moments, but as a whole, you'll find yourself scowling at a few characters, particularly the female head. All she does is mock and scorn, and you just want to tip her over and maybe play soccer with her for a while. She really shouldn't be able to say much, considering she doesn't have the lung capacity to speak much. But the award for overacting goes to the other doctor in the laboratory, who gets his arm ripped off by the creature in the locked closet and spends several minutes staggering around, going upstairs, staggering some more, and then returning downstairs just to collapse on the ground. It's a silly affair; plus, he keeps staining things with blood. The role of Dr. Cortner is played fairly well though; Herb Evers seemed to be able to capture the cool and collected doctor's role well, although he showed little emotion for the general loss of his fiancée at the scene of the crash.
The only other thing worth mentioning is the musical accompaniment for this film. Surprisingly, the music has a tendency to suit the moods of each individual scene! If there's a spooky atmosphere, the soundtrack plays accordingly; the music takes a more corny/sleazy tone when Dr. Cortner is seen looking for a sexy body to steal and utilize for his fiancée. Although it certainly does not stray far from the stereotypical '60s repertoire of horror-film tunes, there is still adequate tension on behalf of the music to set an eerie mood, which should be applauded.
I can't say, honestly, that the film is not without its share of filming mistakes. There are certain points in the film where continuity becomes an issue, such as when female arms randomly become much fuzzier (indicating that they used a male arm for the shot). There is also an odd change (but understandable from a cinematic point of view) where the doctor who loses an arms collapses in a chair in the living room area, getting blood on it; later on, when Dr. Cortner and his body-to-be return, there is no blood on the chair. But perhaps the biggest continuity error occurs at the end of the movie, where the movie's title comes up again, only it's been changed to "The Head That Wouldn't Die". How can you overlook something as obvious as this? It's little things like this (which, if you actually calculate the total number of errors in the film, adds up to far too many) that really cut into the movie's effectiveness and credibility.
"The Brain That Wouldn't Die" is perhaps one of the better B-movies that I have seen in my experiences, and even though it's not such a great film from a technical or writing standpoint, but it still deserves praise for taking the concept of cranial re-attachment to the basic limits, and overall, it has some solid entertainment value. Also, if you're interested in a good laugh at occasional cinematic mediocrity, this is the movie for you!