The Brain That Wouldn’t Die

The Brain That Wouldn’t Die (1959)
Synapse Films
Cast: Herb (Jason) Evers, Virginia Leith, Leslie Daniel, Eddie Carmel
Extras: Theatrical Trailer, Photo Gallery, Liner Notes

A guiltier pleasure not to be had, ’The Brain That Wouldn’t Die’ finds renewed life in Synapse Films’ spiffy DVD of writer/director Joseph Green’s gruesome, sexy 1959 low budget bloodfest.

Brilliant surgeon (aren’t they always?) Dr. Bill Cortner toys with the natural order (natch) when he keeps the decapitated head of his fiance Jan alive in a laboratory filled with the requisite tubes, coils, electrodes and beakers of bubbling fluid. Cruising strip joints, bathing suit contests (!) and neighborhood streets, Bill anxiously searches for the perfect ’10’ to connect to his dear devoted. Meanwhile, Jan gabs up a storm with twisted (in body and spirit) lab assistant Kurt, needling him with taunts about her newfound power and her seething hatred for what Bill has done to her. Driven insane (no doubt by her inability to scratch her nose), Jan plots revenge from her blood-soaked baking pan home. Oh yeah, there’s also that ’thing in the closet,’ which she has developed a telepathic link with. The sum of Dr. Cortner’s failed experiments, the ’horror that no normal mind can imagine’ slowly gathers strength for the moment when he, and Jan, demand retribution for the wrongs bestowed upon them.

The fullscreen transfer exhibits good gray scale. Film grain and blemishes appear intermittently in the black and white source material, but rather than detract from the presentation, they actually enhance the nostalgia effect. The image is windowboxed to preserve the entire frame. On my projection monitor, no black bars were visible. Black levels are solid, though there are a few instances of high contrast levels washing out some of the details.

The Dolby Digital mono audio presentation performs on par with its age. Mostly free of the usual crackles or pops, the soundtrack displays a strident quality and at times sounds like the dialogue was recorded in a cavernous warehouse (the filmmakers probably ran out of money before the extra looping could be finished).

Special features include a theatrical trailer flush with the usual marketing superlatives (’Racing To a Destiny That Defies Belief!’), a gallery of publicity photos as hokey as the film and insightful liner notes.

This film has it all: voluptuous women, unauthorized limb removals, catfights and broodings over playing God. So, for a kinky trip down Memory Lane, put your brain on hold (not literally), grab a big bowl of popcorn and partake of Synapse’s latest gem in horror DVD. Just think twice before opening your closet door.