Throwback Thursday – The Brain The Wouldn’t Die

Between this blog and my previous one, Professor Damian’s Public Domain Treasure Chest, I’ve been writing about movies for quite a while now. Because of that, there are a lot of posts that have simply gotten lost to the mists of time. So, I figured I’d use the idea of “Throwback Thursday” to spotlight some of those older posts, re-presenting them pretty much exactly as they first appeared except for updating links where necessary or possible, and doing just a bit of re-formatting to help them fit better into the style of this blog. Hope you enjoy these looks back. 

This post first ran on the Treasure Chest back on March 2, 2010.

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Tuesday Terrors – The Brain That Wouldn’t Die (1962) starring Jason Evers

brain1Whatever you do, DON’T open the closet. I mean it. Forget the head over there on the table. Ignore its babbling. Forget the beakers and other instruments that are there to engage in experiments meant to prolong life or give it back to the dead. The dead bodies upstairs? Don’t worry about them. Just don’t open that closet door!

Ok, reminiscing time again. A few years back, yer ol’ Professor was spending Thanksgiving evening with his two then-younger-teen children, watching some retro-TV. Apparently one of the local stations had given up on trying to compete with the parades and football and decided to run a day of programming from the 50’s and 60’s that would have been seen on the channel. Surprisingly, to close out the day, they pulled out what is apparently one of the very few existing clips of local horror host Dr. Lucifer who presented shock Theater from 1958 to 1967. (For more info on Dr. Lucifer please see this site.)

Y’know, there’s just something different about watching a film like this late at night, with the lights off, having been invited into the film by the sometimes sonorous, sometimes dissonant (depending on the temperament and character of the particular host) tones of a local host who would often give you some background on the film, who would sometimes give you some critique of the actors and the movie itself, who would sometimes simply ridicule the advertisers. There was a connection that would be made, and even though quite often everyone, from the host to the people behind the cameras to the viewing audience knew that the show wasn’t really that good, we were still drawn in, co-conspirators with the host, and we would watch until the bitter end, if only to see how he (or she) would wrap up the evening’s proceedings. There was many a Saturday night when I was a child that simply couldn’t end until I was bid by MY host, Sir Cecil Creape, “Goodnight. Sleep Tight. And don’t let the beddy-bugs bite”.

luciferAnyway, there was a little bit of that same magic in the air that particular thanksgiving night. Starting about 10:30, the dulcet tones of Dr. Lucifer emanated from the television as he invited us to share with him a film called The Brain that Wouldn’t Die! With a title like that, how could we be for anything but an hour and a half of cheesy fun?

And cheesy fun is exactly what we got from this flick. It wasn’t long at all before my son and I were completely wrapped up in the plight of Jason Evers‘ Dr Bill Cortner. Dr. Bill, you see, is frustrated, because he knows that he has developed new techniques and serums that can save and extend lives. But he’s being held down by the medical establishment, represented specifically by his father, also a surgeon, who thinks that Dr. Bill is irresponsible and too far ahead of his time. Soon, however, he is going to have a chance to prove just how well his techniques work.

On their way to the remote cabin in the woods where Dr. Bill does his research, he and his fiancee, Jan Compton, are caught in a fiery car accident. Dr. Bill walks away mostly unscathed, but Jan is nowhere near so lucky. Snatching up her disembodied head from the fiery wreck, Dr. Bill carries it to his lab where he injects it with various fluids, hooks it up to electrodes, and sets it upright in a pan full of chemicals on his workbench that somehow restore life and thought to the bodiless head.

Now all Dr. Bill has to do is find a body to reattach the head to. Of course, not any body will do. Janet was quite the looker when she had something more than a pair of eyes and a smile to look at, and Dr. Bill decides that only the perfect body will do. This is where the movie truly begins to show its seamy exploitation roots, as the good doctor decides the best place to find a suitable candidate is a “dance” club. Apparently he is quite a charmer, for he soon finds himself backstage, where instead of kicking him out, the dancers are soon catfighting over him. When that doesn’t work out, he decides to go visit a former patient of his who is now working as a nude photography model. Of course, this being the early sixties, these scenes are handled with a kind of edgy discreteness, more tease than true titillation.

From there the film just seems to slide more and more into a kind of delirious insanity. I haven’t even discussed Jan’s seeming new psychic abilities. Nor Dr. Bill’s vengeful deformed assistant. Nor the thing in the closet. Ah, yes, now we come back to the thing in the closet. You see, Jan is not the first person upon whom Dr. Bill has tried his new techniques, and locked in a closet in the laboratory basement, fed only scraps and aching to kill, is a creature that is apparently an amalgam of all of those failed experiments. And once Jan starts using her newly expanded mind powers to convince the creature to escape, well, you know it can’t be a good thing.

Ok, enough of me talking, let’s take a look at the trailer, shall we?

And here’s the skinny:
Title: The Brain That Wouldn’t Die
Release Date: 1962
Running Time: 82 min
Black and White
Starring: Jason Evers, Virginia Leath
Directed by: Joseph Green
Produced by: Rex Carlton, Mort Landberg
Distribution Company: American International Pictures

The Brain That Wouldn’t Die is available for free to watch or download here.

 

31 Days of Halloween – 028: Creature Feature Theater – Svengoolie Presents Saturday The 14th

October marches on, and so does our countdown to All Hallows Eve. This year, rather than trying to do a full 31 film reviews or something truly time-consuming like that, most of what I’m going to be posting are favorite trailers, short films, some full-length movies, and other items just to kind of help get everyone in the spirit of what really is one of my favorite holidays.

I really wish that I had more time to write about this today, going into the history and legacy of Chicago horror host Svengoolie and also talking about the horror comedy Saturday the 14th itself which is another one of those that really belongs on my “favorite guilty pleasures” list – yes, it really is as bad as you think it might be – but other commitments mean that I simply can’t today. I do promise to return to both topics before too long, though. In the meantime, however, I’m just going to invite yo to kick back with me and enjoy the show.

Want Some Fun With Your Horror Show? Check Out The Full-Length Doc American Scary (2006)

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Nashville’s Own Sir Cecil Crepe

Here in Nashville when I was growing up, our local Horror Host was Sir Cecil Crepe, the host of a show called Creature Feature. Every week from his dungeon below the studio of local NBC affiliate channel 4, the good Sir Cecil would serve up some of the great – and not-so-great – horror B-movies of the past, along with skits featuring other characters and bits of information about the film. In a lot of ways, we kids (and our parents) were tuning in to see Sir Cecil as much as, or perhaps even more, than the movie he was showing. Nonetheless, it’s to Sir Cecil and Creature Feature (along with The Big Show, but that’s a post for another time) that I owe a debt of gratitude for turning me on to so many of these just plain fun movies.

Nor was Nashville the only city with such programming, As a matter of fact, there probably wasn’t a major city anywhere in the US at a certain point in time that didn’t have their own horror host, and there were even a few who managed to go national.

I still have my own Ghoul Patrol badge.
I still have my own Ghoul Patrol badge.

So what happened to the local horror hosts? Why are they no longer a fixture on American television screens? Well, there are a number of factors, but basically it comes down to what it always comes down to: money. It’s cheaper for local stations to fill their time with never ending syndicated re-runs of bad comedy shows than to produce this type of programming.

Anyway, in 2006, the documentary American Scary was released as a tribute to these hosts and to tell the story of their rise and fall. I actually picked up a DVD copy of the doc when it first came out, and now, thanks to YouTube, I can share this excellent video with you.

So, whether you are old enough to remember your own local horror host, or this is a new concept to you, come back in time with me and let your inner monster kid out for a little while to enjoy American Scary:

By the way, if you have your own memories of horror hosts from your younger days, or any current favorites (yes, the tradition is still carried on, though not as predominately as it once was, and Nashville even still has our own Horror Host, Dr. Gangrene, who carries on Sir Cecil’s legacy to this day) I’d love to hear about them in the comments.