Directed by Joseph Green
Produced by Rex Carlton
Screenplay by Joseph Green
Story by Rex Carlton and Joseph Green
Director Of Photography: Stephen Hajnal
Film Editors: Leonard Anderson and Marc Anderson
Music: Abe Baker and Tony Restaino
Cast: Jason “Herb” Evers (Dr. Bill Cortner), Virginia Leith (Jan Compton), Leslie Daniels (Kurt), Adele Lamont (Doris Powell), Marilyn Hanold (Peggy Howard), Bruce Brighton (Dr. Cortner), Eddie Carmel (Monster)
One of the great things about the DVD/Blu-ray era we find ourselves in is that somebody like Shout Factory will come along and make a cheap movie look like a million bucks. And with The Brain That Wouldn’t Die (1962) — a picture that’s probably available at your local dollar store looking like crap — that’s exactly what they’ve done.
Dr. Bill Cortner (Herb Evers) is a brilliant surgeon who’s conducting some bizarre transplantation experiments at his family’s country estate. When his fiancé Jan (Virginia Leith) is decapitated in a car wreck, Cortner preserves her head in a pan while he heads off to burlesque houses in search of a new body (told you he was brilliant). In the meantime, Jan begins to communicate telepathically with a hideous mutant (Eddie Carmel) locked up in Cortner’s basement. From there, it gets weird.
Shot around Tarrytown, New York, in 1959 under the title The Black Door, it wasn’t released until AIP picked it up in 1962. (Somewhere along the way, it was going to be called The Head That Wouldn’t Die.) AIP trimmed the picture a bit for release, and that’s the way I saw it countless times on the late show as a kid. As cheap and crummy as it may be, I always found it creepy and unsettling.
The new Blu-ray from Shout Factory was transferred from the original negative. It’s finally offered up uncut — 100% of its gore and sleaze are intact. It’s absolutely stunning to look at — which makes you realize just how (surprisingly) well it was shot to begin with. The contrast levels are perfect, making this a superb example of high-definition black and white. There are plenty of extras, too, from a commentary to some “international” scenes to the MST3K episode featuring the film.
While I can’t really recommend the movie itself — a 53-year-old no-budget gore movie is a bit of a niche product, it’s easy to recommend the Blu-ray. We’ve come to expect this kind of video treatment for something like Casablanca (1942), 2001: a space odyssey (1968) or the Bond films. To see a picture like The Brain That Wouldn’t Die given such attention makes my heart feel good. Thanks, Scream Factory.