• Brain That Wouldn’t Die, The

    Released by: Shout! Factory
    Released on: December 15th, 2015.
    Director: Joseph Green
    Cast: Jason Evers, Virginia Leith, Anthony La Penna
    Year: 1962
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    The Movie:

    Cat fights! Cleavage! Decapitations and severed heads! A mad scientist and a creature locked behind a door in a secret lab! All this and more awaits you in… The Brain That Wouldn’t Die! The subject of more ‘public domain’ releases than you can shake a stick at gets a proper, restored special edition Blu-ray release courtesy of Shout! Factory and really, it’s a doozy.

    When the movie begins, we meet Bill Cortner (Jason Evers), a handsome young doctor who, with some help from his surgeon father (Bruce Brighton), finishes up some successful brain surgery. He’s ready to call it a day – his dad is splitting off to a medical conference and his fiancé, Jan Compton (Virginia Leath), is ready for fun. Unfortunately for Jan, Bill’s idea of fun involves speeding up a tight, winding road and driving his car over a fence and down a steep hill. Bill comes out of it okay but Jan? She’s decapitated in the accident.

    Regardless, Bill is fairly nonplussed by all of this. He simply scoops up Jan’s head and wraps it in his coat and walks the rest of the way to his secret cabin laboratory in the woods. Here he puts Jan’s head in a pan and hooks it up to some goofy looking ‘medical equipment’ so that he can keep her head and brain alive until he can find a suitable replacement body. He does this by scoping out some cat fighting strippers, judging a bathing beauties competition and then eventually finding an old college friend of his who now makes her living as a studio model (watch for Sammy Petrillo, who played opposite the mighty Duke Mitchell in Bela Lugosi Meets A Brooklyn Gorilla to pop up in this scene!). But is Bill’s science as mad as his lab assistant/human guinea pig Kurt (Anthony La Penna) believes it to be? With some help from the ‘thing’ kept locked behind a heavy door at the other end of the lab, Jan is going to find out.

    Featuring some fast paced direction from Joseph Green, The Brain That Wouldn’t Die (also known as The Head That Wouldn’t Die) is pretty zany stuff and it also takes things into considerably more graphic territory than you might expect for a film shot in 1959 (it wasn’t released until 1962 for that reason). We get some catty strippers with fantastic cleavage, some primitive gore, and heavy doses of both violence and lecherous behavior all in the name of science! It’s pretty great stuff, there’s never a dull moment here. Sure, the effects are creaky – it’s obvious in more than one shot when a fake head is being used in place of Leath’s actual head – but that doesn’t take away from the movie’s entertainment value in the least. The whole thing is delightfully lurid!

    We get a pretty fun cast here too. Jason Evers, the doctor with ‘a face a girl doesn’t mind looking at’ is obviously having a good time chasing the girls about here and if maybe he’s a little tough to buy as a brilliant surgeon, he does the playboy thing well. Anthony La Penna is awesome as Kurt, the doctor’s assistant who was also the recipient of a hand transplant gone wrong – he’s all gimped out here and has some great, tortured dialogue. The real star, however, is Virginia Leath as ‘Jan In The Pan.’ When she tells Kurt “No, my deformed friend, like all quantities, horror has its ultimate, and I am that” she means it! Granted, she doesn’t have much to do here outside of look annoyed by everything but she does it well and when she becomes increasingly unhinged as the movie progresses, her performance amps up accordingly.

    Note that this version of the movie includes the brain surgery scene that was omitted from the last DVD release that Shout! Factory put out through Timeless Media (one their Movies 4 You collection).


    The Brain That Wouldn’t Die is presented on Blu-ray from Shout! Factory framed at 1.66.1 widescreen in AVC encoded 1080p high definition and while some of the compositions do look a little tight in spots, overall this is a really strong transfer. Contrast looks great, black levels are nice and strong and detail is consistently impressive. There is the occasional vertical scratch here and there but they’re never particularly intrusive or distracting, while print damage is more or less held in check. Grain looks nice and natural here and there’s good texture throughout.

    The English language DTS-HD 2.0 Mono audio, which comes with optional English subtitles, is also quite good. Dialogue is always clean, clear and easy to understand and the levels are nicely balanced. There are no problems with any hiss or distortion here either.

    The main extra on this disc is the inclusion of the Mystery Science Theater 3000 episode that skewers The Brain That Wouldn’t Die. Considered one of the series’ more infamous episodes, it’s a pretty fun extra if you don’t need to take things too seriously. Lots of quality riffing on the movie here, it’s quick witted and well-paced and generally just pretty funny stuff. This is in SD, as it was originally broadcast back in 1993. Here Mike Nelson enters the theater for the first time where he’s subjected to the horror that is… The Brain That Wouldn’t Die.

    Additionally we get an audio commentary from Steve Haberman and Tony Sasso who do a pretty fine job of detailing the history of this particular film and offering up some critical thought and insight into what works and what doesn’t. This hits the right mix of humor and legitimately interesting trivia and it’s a well-paced, worthwhile commentary.

    Rounding out the extras are a trailer for the feature, a still gallery, and maybe most important of all, some bonus nudity (just shy of ninety seconds worth of footage from a topless model shoot that was for the international cut of the movie)! Menus and chapter selection are also included on the disc.

    The Final Word:

    The Brain That Wouldn’t Die is total B-movie bliss and Shout! Factory has done a fine job of rolling out the red carpet for this cult classic. The presentation is top notch, the extras plentiful and fun and the movie itself is still a kick more than a half a century since it was made.

    Click on the images below for full sized Blu-ray screen caps!

    Comments 3 Comments
    1. paul h.'s Avatar
      paul h. -
      Thanks for the review! I'll probably pick this one up, but I wish shout products were a little cheaper. They have a bunch of releases that I want, but not at the price that they are charging.
    1. Matt H.'s Avatar
      Matt H. -
      Does anyone know if the brain surgery scene was included on the Synapse DVD?
    1. John Bernhard's Avatar
      John Bernhard -
      Yes, Synapse had a complete source, and the Shout BD is the same content wise ( unlike the slightly shorter Timeless DVD from a couple years ago ).