Review Date: August 24, 2000
Released by: Synapse
Release date: 8/1/2000
Region 0, NTSC
The fine folks at Synapse have done it again. They've taken a relatively unknown film - The Brain That Wouldn't Die - and given it a deluxe treatment. Not in terms of extras, but in terms of presenting a film in its true UNCUT form with the best possible video and sound. These are the things that are most important to fans and Synapse delivers with its The Brain That Wouldn't Die release. Lets take a closer look at this DVD.
Dr. Bill Cortner (Jason Evers) performs bizarre experiments on dead bodies. He's of the belief that it's possible to transfer organs from one body to another. This belief is his justification for the experiments he performs. He works with his father (Bruce Brighton) and girlfriend Jan Compton (Virginia Leith) at a hospital. There he's performed some of his strange practices on dead bodies that he's managed to bring back to life. While his father doesn't agree with his experiment, he admits to being impressed with the results.
Bill receives a message from Kurt (Leslie Daniels), a worker at the family cabin, indicating there is an emergency and that Bill must come to the cabin right away. Bill goes and decides to bring Jan, allowing her to come to the cabin with him for the first time. What Jan doesn't realize is that the cabin is where Bill performs all his gruesome experiments in transplanting organs. While the two are driving to the cabin there is an accident due to Bill's speeding. Bill is thrown from the car, landing at the bottom of a hill. He quickly returns to the car - now on fire - only to find that Jan has been decapitated. He snatches up her head in his coat and begins running towards the cabin like a football player runs to the endzone. Bill make it to the cabin and uses his strange experiments to keep her head alive. He plans to find a new body for Jan and transplant her head to that new body. Bill begins searching the streets for the perfect body.
Jan's head begins to come to, chanting "let me die, let me die". As Jan finally comes to it's quite obvious that she isn't happy about the situation. She realizes that her boyfriend is a madman and that someone's going to die in order for her to have a body. Jan begins talking to something that is locked up in a closet, telling it to knock a certain amount of times to indicates yes or no. Things begin to come together in her mind and soon enough she realizes that the monster in the closet is a result from Bill's past experiments. Kurt comes in and is startled by the closet freak while Jan laughs away. When he steadies himself he explains to Jan that the monster is the result of Bill's failed experiments from miscalculations.
Bill finds the women with the perfect body and works on getting her back to the cabin where he can perform the transplant. What Bill doesn't realize is that Jan and the closet monster have their own plans for Bill - plans for revenge. Can a monster along with a disembodied head stop this madman? Or will Bill succeed in restoring his true love back to the perfect body he has found?
Well, well. How do I go about describing my feelings about The Brain That Wouldn't Die? The acting was horrible (almost as bad as the directing), the story was weak and a bit slow moving, the props were lousy and the effects are poor. Still, The Brain That Wouldn't Die is the type of movie that is a "guilty pleasure" for me. It's just so cheesy that I find it amusing, which is the opposite of what it's trying to accomplish. I must admit to enjoying the disembodied head, planning its revenge with the monster in the closet and speaking some humorous dialogue. Of course, when you want a classic disembodied head movie you go to Re-Animator, but I still found Brain enjoyable thanks to the cheesiness factor. Given all the problems I've mentioned most horror fans may not like this movie, but any fans of cheesy B&W monster movies may find this to be a gem.
Synapse presents The Brain That Wouldn't Die "windowboxed" format, exposing more picture image than what is possible with a standard "letterbox" framing. Playback on a TV may look like a standard 1.33:1 transfer, but playback on a computer exposes black bars around the entire image - this is from the windowboxing. While this is certainly the finest Brain has ever looked, there are certainly some problems in the transfer. There are numerous white specks that appear throughout the transfer, along with a large amount of print blemishes. All sorts of print blemishes appear - scratches, black and white vertical lines and black dots. Given the age and low budget of the film this isn't too surprising. I doubt it's even possible to clean up a print such as this. After all, there's only so much that can be done to clean up a print. Fortunately, the DVD boasts an extremely sharp image with strong black and white colors. No grain was evident throughout the entire film.
Definitely another excellent job done by Synapse. There are still flaws in the print, but given the age and budget of the film I'm scoring the Image Quality with a B, which I think is fair. I have seen parts of Brain on TV in the past and I assure you this DVD is a HUGE improvement in terms of the video quality, amongst other things which I'll talk about later.
The Brain That Wouldn't Die is presented in Dolby Digital Mono. Sound was generally crisp and clear with no distortion heard. My only complaint is that scenes that have an echoing sound during dialogue, but again that's due to the low budget nature of the film. One example is at 32:48 when Bill is talking with the two dancers - you'll notice an echo. I wouldn't be surprised if a lot of these scenes were filmed in someone's basement. This complaint is no fault of the DVD and won't hurt the Sound grade at all.
Synapse may be stretching the "Special Edition" label on the front of the DVD, but there are some cool extras to speak of. For one, Synapse presents The Brain That Wouldn't Die in its uncut form, restoring some of the gory scenes that the AIP (American International Pictures - the company that released the film in 1962) cut. Included on the insert are liner notes by Bryan Senn. They're quite enjoyable, explaining the story itself, cut scenes, some of the actors and more. A word of warning - if you haven't seen the film hold off on reading the liner notes as they give away a lot of the story, including the ending. Lastly, there are about 15 behind-the-scenes photos and a theatrical trailer to the film. That's it for extras. Probably not worthy of the 'Special Edition' label, but what extras are on the DVD you'll find enjoyable.
The Brain That Wouldn't Die is a cheesy movie that some will hate and some will love. I'm of the latter and I'd recommend you at least give this Synapse DVD a rental. Chances are you'll find the movie more humorous than anything else, but in the end you'll be entertained, just for the wrong reasons. Synapse certainly did an excellent job with the DVD, giving us the usual high quality audio/video and a fair amount of extras.
Movie - B
Image Quality - B
Sound - B+
Supplements - B-
- Running time - 1 hour 25 minutes
- Not Rated
- 1 Disc
- Dolby Digital Mono
- Uncensored Edition
- Original theatrical trailer
- Liner Notes by Bryan Senn
- Rare Behind-the-Scenes photos