12/22/06

513 The Brain That Wouldn’t Die

(1962, Horror-Mad Science, b&w)

Help, I’m in another dimension!

Rating: **

In a nutshell:

A mad scientist surgeon seeks a new body for his decapitated fiancé.

Summary:

Skull 2.0 is made of durable, lightweight vinyl.A father-and-son surgical team works hard on an emergency patient, who dies despite their combined efforts. The father gives up, but the son, Bill, taunts his father until he allows him to experiment. They open the heart and the brain areas and revive the patient. (Oddly enough, their gloves are still clean while they wash up.) The father berates his son Bill for spending to much time in his “laboratory” and stealing severed limbs from amputee operations for experimentation. He leaves for a medical conference while Bill smooches with Jan, his nurse fiancĂ©.

An emergency call comes in from “the country place,” so Bill and Jan speed out on winding back roads. Bill eventually crashes the car within walking distance. He’s thrown clear and is uninjured. Jan, on the other hand, is decapitated by the convertible’s shattered windshield. Bill wraps the head in his coat and runs while the rest of her burns in the wreckage.

At the country place, Bill ignores his shrivel-armed assistant Kurt for long enough to hook up Jan’s head to an elaborate network of tubes and put it in a sticky lasagna pan. The bodiless head wakes up and pleads with him to “let me die.” He ignores her while he listens to Kurt explain why he called them out there. There’s a thing in the closet that Bill has stitched together from his stolen amputations, and it’s getting more grotesque and unruly every day.

Bill wanders off to find Jan a new body. He winds up at an old-fashioned diner with feathered strippers. During an attempt to lure one of them back to his laboratory, he becomes the subject of a catfight between two predatory and scantily clad ladies and leaves. Meanwhile, back at the country place, Jan makes psychic contact with the thing in the closet, and taunts Kurt. Bill refuses to listen to Kurt’s warnings when he comes home and goes to bed.

The next day, Bill drives through town in his convertible (which looks suspiciously like the one that burned up after decapitating Jan) and ogles the women on the sidewalk. One of them recognizes him and hops into his car. He says he’s going to take her to watch a beauty contest, but first they have to stop by his place for some decapitation. Before they can drive off, though, one of her friends shows up to go with them, so he decides against it. They all go to the beauty contest together.

Meanwhile, Jan taunts Kurt into looking into the closet, where the thing reaches out through the peephole and rips off his good arm. Kurt staggers around while he bleeds to death, wiping blood all over the walls of the laboratory while Jan laughs maniacally. After roughly three hours, he finally collapses and expires.

After the beauty contest, Bill wanders over to an old friend’s house. She’s a reclusive figure model with some slight scarring on her face. Once all the sleazy photographers go home, he talks her into trusting him, telling her that he’s become a plastic surgeon, capable of fixing her scars. He takes her back to his place and drugs her, taking her downstairs for a head transplant. Unfazed by Kurt’s mangled corpse and the blood-painted walls, and unmoved by Jan’s pleas to leave the girl alone and just let her die, he prepares to cut the model’s head off with a tiny scalpel. Jan calls the thing out of the closet (who turns out to be a big guy in a goofy rubber mask) to break down the door, kill Bill, and carry the drugged model to safety. She laughs and laughs while the whole laboratory goes up in flames.

Introduction:

Tom and Crow have been running their new human companion, Mike Nelson, through a series of training exercises to get ready for the movie, including The Beast of Yucca Flats (to be seen later in Episode 621) and Night of the Lepus (a film about giant killer rabbits that, unfortunately, has never been featured on MST3K). Mike graduates from his training by answering a series of questions, correctly identifying Sid Melton as “little monkey-boy.”

Host Segment One:

That rib roast hat looks delicious, but after a while it would probably attract flies.Mike is reluctant to show proper fear and respect towards Dr. Forrester, so Dr. Forrester makes him do his invention exchange first. Mike has invented an umbrella with gutters and a drainpipe. The ‘Bots all love it and call it the Gutter-Bumbershoot, singing the name over and over again. Dr. Forrester has invented the Dream-Buster, which pops youngster’s balloons from a safe distance, so you won’t get in trouble with anyone’s parents.

Host Segment Two:

Mike has crawled under the floor panels, trying to rewire the Satellite of Love and gain control. He fails, hitting a line of what the ‘Bots claim is compressed cheese. They have a cheese fight until Gypsy shouts out, “That’s not cheese!”

Host Segment Three:

Mike and the ‘Bots have designed hats for Jan, since it’s the only article of clothing she’s able to wear anymore. These include the Bowling-Bag hat, the Rib Roast Hat, the rotating Lazy Susan Hat, and the Candleholder Hat.

Host Segment Four:

Mike and the ‘Bots consider the movie’s message, which seems to be something about being unable to trust people not to chop off your head and use you in a grisly lab experiment, with strong misogynist undertones. The ‘Bots declare that Mike can trust them and invite him to share an embarrassing moment from his past. Mike does so, telling a sad tale from when he was eight years old and accidentally wet his pants. The ‘Bots laugh at him. Quoth Tom, “Don’t stand under him!”

Host Segment Five:

The still-bodiless Jan calls the Satellite on the Hexfield Viewscreen. They talk about her experiences since the film, and she makes lots of severed head jokes while telling them about her job as a doorstop, and her marriage. Mike tries to tell a head joke too, but this offends her. Down in Deep 13, Dr. Forrester decides to reanimate a severed head. Since severed heads are in short supply, he calls Frank over and starts up his chainsaw.

Stinger:

A stripper says, “Who’s to tell me to blow, if I don’t want to?”

Thoughts:

I'm glad she can laugh at this.  It's important to keep a sense of humor about these kinds of things.This is a mad scientist film—a He-Tampered-In-God’s-Domain flick—the kind of movie where Someone-Meddles-In-Powers-He-Doesn’t-Understand and Pays-The-Ultimate-Price. And it’s fairly standard, as far as that kind of movie goes, set apart only slightly by the sleaze. Oily stripper jazz plays whenever Bill is out trolling for babes. I suppose I should have been touched by his faithfulness to his girlfriend’s crazed and psychic severed head, but mostly it just made me squirm. Also, there’s a fairly obvious continuity break almost every time we see a close-up of Bill’s face. The background behind the close-up shot is so clearly different from the background of the composite shot that someone in the Satellite Crew shouts, “Help, I’m in another dimension!” whenever it happens. I’m not sure how many incidences of this there are, but I’m pretty sure that counting them would require the use of more than one hand.

What makes this an important movie to watch is, of course, Mike’s debut as the host of the Satellite of Love. Watching Mystery Science Theater 3000 with him is a different experience, but still a good one. He’s not quite as bizarre as Joel, but a great deal more animated, and I think he does as good a job as Joel ever did. He has a gentle, self-deprecating humor that really works well, as we see in the “you can trust us” sketch where he shares an embarrassing childhood memory. His handling of the Mads in the opening sequence was good, as was his perfect delivery of the line, “Well, if it’s not cheese, what is it?”

The film segments are slightly different as well with Mike. Joel had a tone of non sequitur whimsy that I missed. On the other hand, Mike’s voice is deeper and more flexible than Joel’s, and does better impersonations. Like every change it’s a trade-off. Mike has most of the really funny lines in the film segments, starting with the gauze-wrapped patient in the operating room where he says, “Just a normal Tuesday for Cher.” When the thing in the closet rips of Kurt’s good arm, he says, “I guess you would call that a Farewell to Arms.” At the end, when Jan laughs over the closing sequence, he says, “Oh I get it. It’s a comedy.” It’s important for any fan to see Mike’s first episode as host, and it’s a decent episode as well.