Cinema Sunday: The Brain That Wouldn’t Die (1962)


Title: The Brain That Wouldn’t Die

Distributor: American International Pictures

Writers: Rex Carlton, Joseph Green

Director: Joseph Green

Producers: Rex Carlton, Mort Landberg

Starring: Jason (Herb) Evers, Virginia Leith, Eddie Carmel, Leslie Daniels, Marilyn Hanold

Released: May 1962

MPAA: Approved


What lengths would you go to to insure that your loved one was by your side forever? Well, luckily we don’t have to guess in the case of The Brain That Wouldn’t Die! Now, admittedly, this title is a bit misleading, but there is a decapitated head, and other vile creatures in this little flick from 1962. It was actually filmed to completion in 1959 (during the sci-fi craze), but the production company allegedly ran into some financial troubles, and it put off the release of the film for a couple of years.

A quirky little film that hovers around some very creepy subjects, shows some wild, bloody scenes for the 1960’s, and lets us all know just how creepy doctors can be! Well, without further interruption, here we go!



The flick starts out in a hospital, where two men, Dr. Bill Cortner (Jason Evers), and his father, Dr. Cortner (Bruce Brighton), are attempting to save the life of someone in very bad shape. The elder of the two gives up, and then his son, Dr. Bill asks to perform an experimental surgery on the guy, because he’s flat-lined anyway. Dr. Bill then miraculously brings the man back to life, and his father is stunned. He doesn’t approve of the methods, but is happy about the results. The two have a quick conversation, and then Dr. Bill and his assistant, Jan Compton (Virginia Leith), head up the road to the family country home. On the way there though, the car can’t handle the curvy road, and Dr. Bill is thrown from the car. Jan isn’t so lucky, and is decapitated in the wreck!



Once Dr. Bill comes to, he realizes what’s happened and he does what anyone would do. He grabs a sack and puts Jan’s head into it, and runs to the family home they were traveling to before the wreck occurred. He devises a plan to seek out a “hot body” to attach Jan’s head to, and once again be with the woman he loves. At the house, we meet two more characters. The first is Kurt (Leslie Daniels), a former medical worker that aids Dr. Bill in his insidious experiments. You see, Dr. Bill isn’t a conventional doctor, he believes in taking risks, and doing things unconventionally. He’s been using limbs he’s stolen from the morgue to attempt to reattached them to a new host, in hopes that he’ll have a breakthrough in the process.



The second person we meet, is one of Dr. Bill’s experiments. We don’t actually see him, but we hear him groaning, and pounding on the door to his cell. It’s some kind of experiment gone wrong, but Dr. Bill still holds out hope that one day he’ll be able to “repair” him. Dr. Bill then shows Kurt Jan’s head, and explains to him that they must keep it alive with his new formula, and that he’ll find a new “hot body” for Jan. Meanwhile, Jan just wants to die and is horrified at what Dr. Bill is doing to her.



We soon realize that Dr. Bill’s experimental juice has a side-effect on Jan. It gives her some form of telepathy, and she can now communicate with people using her mind. She speaks out loud to Kurt, and Dr. Bill, but she mentally communicates with the thing locked in the cell nearby. Kurt disagrees with Dr. Bill and thinks Jan should be allowed to die. You might wonder why Kurt helps Dr. Bill in the first place, but there is a good reason. Kurt has a bad arm, and basically can’t use it for anything. It seems that Dr. Bill used his transplant operation on Kurt, but it didn’t take. Now Kurt stays in the hopes of one day getting a new arm.



Just before he heads out on his mission to find a hot woman for Jan’s head, he checks the thing in the closet. He’s horrified by what’s in there, and Kurt tells him that it almost broke free the other night. Dr. Bill tells him that it can’t break free because of the thickness of the door, but Kurt is less than hopeful. Dr. Bill heads out and heads straight for…wait for it…a strip club. You’ve got to admire his “love”for his girlfriend Jan. Inside this waspy club, we see some fine ladies earning their money. Immediately, Dr. Bill takes a liking to one of them, but can’t seal the deal. Back at the lab, Kurt spies on Jan and her new friend. He’s so scared he almost craps himself when he realizes that they can communicate. You get the feeling that Jan has a growing resentment for Kurt, and her former lover, and that this isn’t going to end well.



Back to Dr. Bill and his search. After failing miserably at the strip club, he finds a woman that he knew from college that was disfigured. She’s now a figure model, and lets men come to her house to photograph her wearing almost nothing, for money. Dr. Bill waits until the “session” is over, and tells her that he still thinks she’s beautiful, and he’d like to get re-acquainted. At first, she isn’t very receptive, but she eventually wants so badly to have her face back the way it used to be, she relents to his request to hang out at his place for a consult.



I won’t go any further at this point, because this is a very short movie (just over an hour), and anything more would give the ending away. Suffice to say that there will be bloodshed, and Jan, Dr. Bill, Kurt, and the monster will all have a night they will never forget!




OK, here are my thoughts:

This film is another in a long line of public domain flicks that are most certainly underrated. Obviously it’s a “B” movie for a reason, the sets aren’t awesome, and there aren’t any actors/actresses that most will recognize, but don’t let that deter you from giving this one a watch. For one thing, Jan’s head is REALLY creepy! Imagine being a moviegoer in 1962, and seeing what looks like a real head with all these wires and tubes hooked up to it, talking, and making these different facial expressions. Also, that as the movie goes on, Jan gets absolutely crazy. Now, we don’t know if this is from the serum that Dr. Bill has given her or just insanity setting in because of dealing with being decapitated and kept alive. Either way, Jan is CREEPY!

The other cool thing about this flick is the monster behind the door. We don’t get a lot of action from him, but when we do, he goes on a bloody rampage that makes King Kong look like a circus chimp. The actor who played the monster, Eddie Carmel, isn’t a household name now, but back then, he was known for doing carnival sideshows, and things like that, due to his condition of Gigantism. The dude was 8′ 9″ tall, and looked like an absolute terror. The makeup was anything to get worked up about, but just the sheer size of the man is enough to scare anyone. Sadly, as most with that condition, he died at a very young age.

Give the link a click, and sit down for an hour or so and give this one a chance. You get some fine ladies, a killer giant, and a deranged doctor that can’t even land a girl at a strip club!


Click here for the full movie!




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