April 29, 2009

"You're Nothing But a Freak of Life!
And a Freak of Death!"

THE BRAIN THAT WOULDN’T DIE
(1959 – 1962 release)
Directed by Joseph Green
STARRING:
Herb Evers – Dr. Bill Cortner
Leslie Daniels – Kurt
Virginia Leith – Jan Compton (head of Jan Compton)
Adele Lamont - Doris Powell
Bonnie Sharie – Blonde Stripper
Paula Maurice – Brunet Stripper
Eddie Carmel – Beast in the Closet

“Heaven has no rage like love to hatred turned,
Nor hell a fury like a woman scorned.”

William Congreve (The Mourning Bride – 1697)

Amen to that, Brother William. Just ask Dr. Bill Cortner, mad scientist extraordinaire in The Brain That Wouldn’t Die. As the handsome doctor will learn, a woman’s rage - nothing to ignore under the most typical of circumstances - will become particularly acute if you keep her severed head alive in a pan of blood.

Virginia Leith

But let’s back up a step. We are getting ahead of ourselves, and we certainly wouldn’t want to miss a single element of this consistently sleazy, brilliant, and wildly watchable piece of B-movie history. Let’s begin with this: As Brian Senn points out in the liner notes of the wonderful Synapse Films DVD release of Brain, this is the only time a studio’s publicity campaign ever undersold a picture. The Artist International publicity department release read: “an adventure into a terror-filled world of science gone mad were anything and everything can and does happen.” Hells bells, considering the mad dramatics and blood-rich insanity of the proceedings, this blurb qualifies as dignified understatement. Let’s get to it.

Our film begins with a black screen and silence. A woman’s breath is heard first, then her voice, frail and thin: “let me die.” The voice gathers strength for another effort, but can manage nothing stronger. “Let me die.” Then the titles come up in white over black, simple and brutal, accompanied by the weighty, baroque theme music of Abe Baker and Tony Restaino (their one and only film credit. The film, in fact, is stuffed with names in which the appellation “one and only film credit” will apply, including most of the principal actors and, for all intense and purposes, the director, Joseph Green).

The scene chewing (and no film as yet in the files of Radiation Cinema has more wonderfully chewed scenes as does Brain) begins in an operating room where a collapsing breathing bag tells us a patient has just died. Those in attendance stare down for a moment at the still body. “I should have know he was as good as dead when they wheeled him in,” says Dr. Cortner (Bruce Brighton). And right there with the first line of dialogue, the utter weirdness begins: What does this line mean, exactly? The Doctor should have realized the patient was a lost cause and – what? Not even tried? Just gone through the motions? Put the poor bastard out of his misery with a pillow? And why aren’t any vitals being checked? Where is the mad scramble to save the patient after a heart stops? Where are the Vaseline covered electro-pads or the concerned, back-humped doctor bouncing up and down on the dead patient’s chest like a frenzied poodle? Not here, that’s for damn sure. In this laid back operating room, nurses and doctors simply gaze down at the dying/dead man as though vaguely interested and only mildly confused – a staff doing the daily crossword puzzle in the break room.

“You did everything you could, Dr. Cortner,” assures one of the nurses.

“Everything? Says the doctor. “Everything but save my patient.”

“Everything in the books,” clarifies a younger attending surgeon who will turn out to be Dr. Cortner the Younger. The young whipper-snapper strides dramatically away from the operating table, then turns: “Now, Dad, do I have permission to take over and do things my way?”


“The operating room is no place to experiment,” says Dad, sounding haggard. This is clearly not the first time that junior has asked dad if he can borrow a body, so that he may do things “his way.” Clear also is that the doctors and hospital staff of yesteryear were not subject to the litigious environment of our own time.

He’s dead,” says young Dr. Cortner. “I can’t do any harm.”

“Very well,” says Dad. “The corpse is yours. Do what you want to do.” Jesus! Let’s hope the young doctor isn’t into anything too . . . experimental.

Yessiree, the weird bells that signal unusual weirdness have begun ringing, and they won’t really stop until the end credits roll.

What young Dr. Bill Cortner (Herb Evers) wants to do is crack open the dead gentleman’s skull, clip electrodes directly to the brain, and thereby stimulated the motor areas to invigorate the heart. Dr. Cortner is a trail blazer in the area of exposed brain stimulation, a field in which he is the sole advocate and pioneer. His procedure works, and the patient is brought back to life and wheeled from the operating room (although presumably he will need a skull plate of about 6 inches square fitted later). Nurses scurry out as well so that our two Doctors are left alone. As the two remove their masks, snap off their gloves, and do a little post-opt scrubbing, it is revealed that Dr. Bill the younger not only believes in brain stimulation, but further, has developed a secret “special compound” in his off-hospital laboratory that, when used in conjunction with cerebral electric shocks, will make transplantation of any body part possible. It is made equally clear that Pop thinks his son’s work is all bullshit and nonsense.

Painfully obvious as well is the son’s desperate need for any hint of fatherly support – not a speck of which is forthcoming. Sure, Son, you just saved my patient. Whoopee shit. Now what about the aftereffects of skull removal, clamps squishing the gray matter, and electric shock to the brain? A Doctor may experiment on “rabbits, mice, monkeys – but never people,” lectures the old fussbudget, wagging his finger. As for your transplant experiments – impossible!

“It can be done,” yelps Dr. Bill, his lips in a pout. “I’m close. So very close!”

This generational bickering is interrupted by the entrance of Dr. Bill’s fiancée, Jan Compton (Virginia Leith), who is either the elder Dr. Cortner’s nurse or secretary (she comes in wearing a lab coat, but is also ordered about like a girl Friday). “I’m so proud of you I could kiss you,” she says to the young Doctor, referring to his surgical success. As doc junior moves in for a soul kiss, Jan turns her face. “Careful or your father might report us.”

“And stop the floor show?” says dad, practically leering. “Once you two are married it won’t be fun to watch anymore.”

“I can promise you one thing,” says Jan, looking her future husband up and down, “your grandchildren won’t be test tube babies.” Well, alright then. Father? Son? Future daughter in law? Shall we all take a breath before things get irrevocably creepy?

Jan is hustled out of the room to see to the senior doctor’s travel arrangements for a medical convention. Elder Doctor waits for the door to close before boring in. Son, let me ask you something. The superintendent came down on me like a ten-ton bag of shit. He thinks you’ve been stealing body parts from the hospital amputee cases. You know – arms, legs, hands, stuff like that. Would that be you, Son?

So what if I have been stealing a stray part now and then? barks junior. Jeez, Dad, aren’t you the one that’s always harping about the need to experiment? Damn, Dad, can’t I do anything right?

Son, try and pay attention: with regard to experimentation, Cats, Mice, Rabbits – it’s all good! Humans and their appendages – bad! And that means even when they’re dead, Son. I can’t cover your ass forever. Now, two final things before I go. First, for God’s sake, stay away from the family’s “country house.” The place gives me the creeps, and you spend to much time there as it is with your Godless, hideous experiments. I think it’s unhealthy. And second – are you paying attention? -- “the line between scientific genius and obsessive fanaticism is a thin one. Now, I want you on the right side!” Sure, Pop. Have a great convention. Knock ‘em dead.

With that Dad is out of the picture, off to his medical convention, and he can be thankful he has a good alibi for the next few days. No sooner does the lab door stop swinging on Dad’s exit than a nurse tells Son that someone named “Kurt” has left an urgent message. Kurt (Leslie Daniels) will turn out to be junior’s hysterical, over-dramatic, deformed lab assistant (every mad scientist must have one. One day, someone will write a great scene in a great film: all movie lab assistants from various horror films - with their drools, hunchbacks and shrill laughter – sharing a pitcher at the local tavern, bitching about their madmen bosses). The nurse says that Kurt insists that Cortner come immediately to the country place, as something terrible has happened. Say, I’ve got an idea, says Dr. Cortner, pulling his fiancée close for a snuggle, lets make a weekend of it. You’ve always wanted to see the place! While this doesn’t exactly have the makings of a weekend in Vermont, the two are off.

And as the couple motor along through the country, exchanging wind-blown smiles, the film transforms completely into a nitro-burning funny car, tires completely melting as we go into the heart of strange. The doc, it turns out, is as aggressive a driver as he is a surgeon and crashes the car over a guard rail. Dr. Cortner is thrown harmlessly down a slope of soft grass, but Jan is not so lucky. She is left in the blazing, wrecked car, her decapitated head sent into the backseat. We see her nerve-twitching hand seeming to reach toward the sky, but when the doctor comes running up, the hand sinks into the flames. Thinking fast, the doctor takes his jacket off and gingerly wraps up Jan’s head inside it. You can see the wheels turning in the doctor’s head (this is why doctors get the big bucks – they can think on their feet. Average citizens like ourselves would be wasting all this precious time in the grips of something useless like mind-numbing horror and grief), and sure enough, he plucks Jan’s head out of the back seat as though gingerly snatching a hot, baked potato from the red coals of a bonfire. Dang, that’s hot!

Herb Evers

Indeed, luck is with the doctor this day. Not only was Jan’s head sliced cleanly, but his precipitous accident has occurred within trotting distance from the country place. So, tucking the head under his arm, he begins his rather sheepish, mincing run to the house. I say mincing because actor Herb Evers is forced to do a sort of running-in-place, simulated run for much of the scene. The scene screams for a true tracking shot, with a camera on a dolly, or perhaps even multiple cameras – all well beyond the budget, of course, so what Evers is forced to do is take very short steps, looking furtively around while limbs and leaves go by his face slowly. The director even treats us to a shot of Evers’ feet doing their happy, little prance. I have never seen documentation to substantiate my suspicions, but I would wager the actor’s soon-coming name change (he went from Herb Evers to Jason Evers very quickly after the picture’s release) was the result of watching himself in this scene. No man could come away with even a shred of dignity. Cortner, who is meant to look like a desperate man defying God and Heaven, racing with the head of his beloved through miles of countryside; manages only to look like a seven-year old swiping a sack of cookies from the cupboard, sneaking to his secret closet.

Once at the country estate, we meet “Kurt,” Dr. Cortner’s lab assistant. The country estate, we discover, is Cortner’s house of hideous blunders – a warehouse of botched experiments and living mistakes, of which Kurt is the primary example. Never out of a lab coat, Kurt is an ex surgeon who has lost his arm in some passed accident - and was willing to chance one of Dr. Cortner’s experiments. Cortner grafted on a dead arm, hoping to regenerate it. It hasn’t taken very well, however, and is simply attached to Kurt’s shoulder like a half-warm, shrunken thing of rubber. There have been successive procedures, but each on leaves Kurt’s arm a bit more shriveled, a bit harder and thicker. It seems to cause Kurt much pain, as he is constantly messaging it, or perhaps it itches. Whatever, Kurt is now conscripted in slavery as only Dr. Cortner, once his formula is perfected, can transplant a living, arm; replacing the rancid, mummified limb Kurt presently carries around like a dead log.

And that’s not all the country estate has to offer. Locked in a closet is, as Kurt will later put it, is “the sum total of Dr. Cortner’s mistakes.” We don’t see this thing until near the end, but we can hear it hiss and gargling as it tries to breath, gulping and groaning wetly from behind the door, and can only imagine the twisted face and misshapen breathing holes that could produce such choked gurglings.

The procedure for keeping Jan’s severed head alive is accomplished with seeming ease. We quickly find Dr. Cortner taking off his surgical gloves, while in the background Jan’s head, still unconscious, is set upright in a pan of blood and formula. She has electrical pads and surgical clamps attached to her like scaffolding. Beakers are in stands around her head, filled with the dark serum, sent bubbling into the tray by tubes.

After it’s been established that Jan’s head has about two days to live, tops, Dr. Cortner dashes off to find a body. Where does one “find” a body, asks Kurt rather stupidly. “There are ways,” says Dr. Cortner, leering a bit. “There are ways.” Before leaving, Kurt begs the Doctor to have a look at the thing in the closet, which, after all, was the reason he asked Dr. Cortner up to the country house in the first place - before the Doc got all sidetracked with the severed head of his fiancée. Cortner begrudgingly agrees, and opens the tiny viewing door into the closet. The slurping, gagging noises from inside increase as we see Dr. Cortner’s face register horror (far more distress, it must be said, than was registered at the sight of his love’s bodiless head). I can’t deal with this now, proclaims the doc, who is forced to establish his priorities: First a body for the head of my fiancée, then the misshapen monster in the closet.

Bonnie Sharie

And just where does our mad scientist go when scouting out bodies for the head of his bride-to-be? Why, strip clubs, whorehouses, beauty pageants, and modeling agencies, of course. Hell, he even spends a few hours simply tooling around side streets like a teenager looking for a lucky hook up. The bulk of the rest of the doctor’s film time is taken up with his distinctly smutty, shockingly unhurried, search for a body beautiful. Meanwhile, while our doctor is prowling through the sleaziest, cheapest backrooms the city has to offer, Jan has come to life, and yipes, is she one unhappy head. And really who can blame her? Gals, put yourselves in her place: Her boyfriend has turned her into a loathsome, bodiless head, set her in a bedpan full of yuck, and left her with a monster and a yammering, overdramatic flunky. She is fit to be tied, except that there is nothing to tie. But there is one, glimmering, ugly bright spot for Jan: the serum that courses through her head has given her telepathic powers. She now controls the creature that gurgles in the closet, can order it about, and plans to use it to exact her revenge. As she strengthens and develops her link to the closet monster, Jan bides her time by engaging Kurt in a torturous bitch-fest, finally running her trap so that in one of the later scenes Kurt shouts “Dr. Cortner should have cut your tongue out!”

The films sputters for a bit in the center with Jan and Kurt bitching at one another other like God-blighted siblings ("You're nothing but a freak of death, and a freak of life!" Kurt screams at her during one heated exchange), and Cortner sampling the lower depths (and taking a distinctly unprofessional pleasure in this quest); but the film kicks back into high gear for the home stretch once Jan convinces the closet thing to make a lunge for Kurt. The beast thrusts its hand out the small closet window and tears Kurt’s arm off (the good one), pulling it right off out of the socket and back into the darkness of the closet. Kurt stands paralyzed in an orgasm of pain, his face pressed against the closet door, then commences a glorious death scene - with actor Leslie Daniels definitely earning his day’s pay. Kurt lurches around the laboratory/house for a few minutes, tramping up and down stairs, flapping his useless flipper and leaving blackish trails of blood and gore over the walls. Jan provides the background music with her insane cackle througnout. By the time Kurt finally slumps to the floor, his lab coat is drenched.

Moments after Kurt finally (finally) calls it quits, Dr. Cortner arrives home with the winner of the evening’s talent search, a body model with a surly attitude (Adele Lamont). After finding Kurt’s bloody corpse in the lab/basement, Cortner thinks fast: Throwing a spare lab coat over Kurt’s body, he returns upstairs with some drinks, drugs Adele, and carries her downstairs for some quick surgery. “These things have to be done,” says Cortner, talking to Jan who is watching with a grief-stricken expression (oddly, Jan the Head has the best moral compass in the film, as well the only discernable sense of remorse or guilt over the atrocities that are planned for her sake). He stretches the unconscious girl on the operating table. “When she does come to, it will be your head consciously awakening for her,” he tells Jan (if anyone does manage to figure out how that could work, would you please drop me an email and try to break it down? I can’t quite bring it into focus).

Eddie Carmel (The Jewish Giant)

The finale comes as Jan manages in one last burst to bring the beast in the closet out into the light, as it tears the closet door off its hinges in an effort to get to Dr. Cortner. The creature, the result of all Dr. Cortner’s mistakes, comes rampaging out of the closet (the part is played by carnival performer Eddie Carmel, often billed as the “Jewish Giant.” Mr. Carmel suffered from Acromegaly and stood in the vicinity of 8 feet tall. He is given layers of lumpy makeup here, and a huge plastic eyeball, but all one really notices is his amazing size). The beast creature kills Cortner, but not before biting a good-sized chunk out of his face first (the monster holds the flap of flesh up for a moment, staring at it curiously, before letting it splat to the floor). The creature also sets the lab on fire by knocking over a Bunsen burner into a pool of alcohol (I’m not a scientist, so I have to ask: do all labs have one of these burners going 24-7? And why are they always set near something as flammable as a lacy curtain or a tray of alcohol?). As the flames lick around her pan, Jan screams “I told you! You should have let me die!” Jan and Cortner, who may be already dead, burn up with the building as Jan’s cackle plays in the background. The Monster escapes the flaming building, carrying the body model, and their survival hints at another movie I would love to see; but alas, this was Director/Writer Joseph Green’s sole movie.
Time for the Good Stuff.

The Good Stuff Pt. I:
Slumming with the Doctor

Okay, once Dr. Cortner gets his fiancée’s severed head stabilized in a pan of fluid and blood, gets the electrodes all hooked up, and has the inter-pan drips working to his satisfaction, his real work begins. Finding an adequately hot body proves to be the real challenge. Cortner turns out to be a very discriminating shopper, checking out many venues, refusing to submit to an impulse purchase. His first stop, though, really sets the tone: a decidedly low rent strip club. If a less selfconscious, sleazier, cheaper slice of American life has ever been brought to the screen, at any rating from PG to XXX, I haven’t seen it. The music sounds as lively as a drugged serpent, the customers all seem to have shiny faces and crooked teeth (men and women), and one can almost smell the feather boas, stale sweat, and perfume. The strippers all look a pound or two over their fighting trim, and all have the pale, translucent skin of the true night crawler. Our doctor casts his eyes on a blonde stripper (Bonnie Sharie - billed as “Blonde Stripper) doing a heavy-hipped, coarse bump and grind and follows her back to her dressing room, which looks like a poorly lit bathroom with a couch. Here’s a taste of their witty repartee:

“Are you hustling for the house?” he asks her flatly.

“I hustle for myself,” snaps Blondie, indignant. “I’m the leading lady around here. I can sit with the squares out front, or I can relax back here with “friends.”

“I bet you haven’t got an enemy in the world,” says the doc, giving her a leer that seems right at home in the squalor.

Eventually, another much larger and tougher looking stripper shows up ( Paula Maurice – the “Brunet Stripper” of the credits) and the two pros compete for the doctor’s attention with some trashy talk:

“It kills her to see me make time,” explains Blonde Stripper to the doctor.

You’re the only thing that’s going to be made around here tonight, honey,” quips the Brunet (Sa-nap!)

The doc seems a little put off by such antics and beats it, which incites Blonde Stripper to launch herself at Brunet Stripper for screwing up the deal with a “guy with class.” The two end up rolling around on the floor in a real hair puller (a scene that was deleted from the orginal release but has been put back for the Synapse release).

Now, why would such a tawdry exhibition be the good stuff, particularly as the overall effect of the scene virtually demands a post-watch shower? Well, I think it touches on the reason I love B movies so much. Consider: if the film makers had had any kind of a budget, they would surely have hired a couple of professional actresses, maybe even a couple of big names – and we would have been presented with a very well-appointed set (made to appear “cheap”) and a couple of beautiful, smooth skinned actresses with perfect abs portraying “strippers.” Hell, they probably would have had fully rounded characters, been given a little back story for depth, and would have been given actual names instead of Blonde and Brunet Stripper. They would have had gum-chewing Brooklyn accents straight from some dialogue coach, and the end result would have been brimming with talent, dolly shots, and breathtaking close-ups .

As it was, the producer and director of this little piece of B had to work with what they could afford talent-wise and, for all intense and purposes, simply plunked the camera in the middle of the room and turned it on. The lighting came courtesy of the ceiling lamp and maybe a single spot. The result? Gritty and cheap, to be sure; and one of the most authentic portrayals of a fifties strip club you are ever likely to find anywhere, complete with (I would wager a month’s salary) real strippers with real Brooklyn accents. I would say you can’t buy a scene like that, but actually the reverse is true. You can buy one real cheap; but the trick is to stay low ball. If you pay too much, you start attracting actual actresses and other quality ingredients. This is a wonderful time to observe that neither Ms. Sharie or Ms. Maurice (Blonde and Brunet) ever had any other screen credits, save Ms. Maurice’s single screen turn as the “Kooch Club Proprietress” in 1961s The Dead One – a B zombie picture once available from Something Weird Video but now sadly out of print.

Ms. Sharie and Ms. Maurice - Ms. Blonde and Ms. Brunet - I salute you, where ever you are. You certainly were, and hopefully still are, the good stuff.

The Good Stuff, Pt. II: Leslie Daniels as Kurt

Recently a friend and I were discussing the merits of Herschell Gordon Lewis, legendary producer/director/writer of such drive-in fair as the Wizard of Gore and Blood Feast. I am not a fan, primarily because Gordon had absolutely no sense of style. Sure, he sloshed animal intestines around to good effect (this was revolutionary, actually, ushering in new age of acceptable gore) but aside from this significant innovation, a Gordon production simply ambled from scene to scene with all the tension of a drowsy pig. The set for a “kitchen” in a Gordon film consisted of a card table set against a bare wall. A “police station” was a card table with a typewriter, set against a bare wall. A “bedroom’ was a bed set against a . . . well, you get the idea. The acting in Gordon movie constituted young men and women, usually friends or family, trying to keep a straight face as they read their lines quickly, terrified of wasting Mr. Gordon’s money. All of which made for something completely unwatchable and, odd considering the copious amounts of splattered innards, boring as gray cinders (I speak here of Gordon's "gore" films, for which he is primarily known. His early sixties "nudies" are a different matter. For example Scum of the Earth from 1963 is an exciting and very watchable piece of film making. I think once Gordon found animal guts, he simply saw no reason to struggle with other more difficult, expensive elements of film production).

The Brain That Wouldn’t Die comes dangerously close to falling into this same non-descript pit. It manages to keep its cheap snout above the muck, though, due to just a sprinkling of imagination in the camera work and editing departments (Director Joseph Green, working in poverty, manages a slick moment or two. The car wreck, for example, does manage to convey “car wreck,” no small feat when you consider that no car was scratched and stunts were so minimal that primary actors could do their own at absolutely zero risk).

But the main reason for seeing this movie (other than the sight of a severed head in a pan) is the swing-for-the-fences performance of Leslie Daniels as the deformed, grandiose Kurt. Kurt is not given a last name, and that is as it should be. After all, did Fritz (Frankenstein, 1931) have a last name? did Karl (Bride of Frankenstein, 1935) or Ygor (Son of Frankenstein, 1938). Even sniffling, mad R. M. Reinfield (Dracula, 1931), gibbering and eating flies, became over time, simply Reinfield.

Leslie Daniels

Leslie Daniels’ Kurt, in true lab assistant tradition, has been enslaved to his mad scientist though some cruel play of fate; in this case the doctor’s promise to heal his dead, blackened arm. Kurt knows in his heart of hearts that all is a lie, and this knowledge, which he cannot face, has driven him into a desperate, dark corner of the mind. Every word he utters, every sentence, seems tinged with the weight of madness, his eyes nearly always ablaze. Instinctively, Daniels moves to center stage whenever he speaks, commanding the moment. He is a ham, you bet, but one well worth watching. Appropriately, he is given some of the richest, if most overblown, dialogue in the movie:

“Can’t you realize?” says Kurt to Cortner as the two stare down at the newly panned head of Jan, yet to regain consciousness. “Can’t you see? There is a pattern to all that lives. An order and arrangement! She had a heart, and a brain, and her spirit was in both, not one or the other!”

“No,” says Cortner, a bit lamely, “I will give her a heart and a brain.”

“Yes,” says Kurt, thrusting his body forward like a politician leaning over a lectern, “and what of her soul? You say you love her, and that you can remember her love for you. Then how can you make of her an experiment of horror?”

Later, when discussing the “mistakes” Cortner has made with Jan the Head, he has this nice speech about the beast in the closet: “No, there is a horror beyond yours (Jan has just called herself the ultimate horror). And it’s in there. Locked behind that door! The paths of experimentation twist and turn through mountains of miscalculation and often lose themselves in error and darkness.”

They do indeed. These are the same dark paths that actor Daniels pitches himself along, sometimes losing himself in darkness and drama as well, but in the end, when the final toll sounds, Kurt is given a death scene to rival the most histrionic in history. It seems to go on forever. Yet when it does end, and Kurt sinks down into a pool of his own blood on the stone floor of the lab, you can feel the air go out of the picture in a death rattle. All that’s left, really, is to kill off the pompous Cortner and the pathetic, raging Head, but by then they are simply loose ends.

Leslie Daniels has become the real watchable madman.

20 comments:

  1. Excellent work, my friend! I love the palpable sleaziness of this film -- something that I don't think has been accomplished so well before or since.

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  2. Saucer: I couldn't agree more. I was actually suprised by the sheer, cheap smuttiness. If that's not memorable film-making, I don't know what is. And I still kick myself for not mentioning the wonderful moment when Dr. Cortner has had his fill of blabbermouth and simply slaps a strip of masking tape over her mouth! Call it The Good Stuff Pt. III. -- Mykal

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  3. Hey Mykal,

    I am debating over which internet DVD service to join. Any suggestions? I am also looking for the 1950's version of Day of the Triffiods..ever seen it?

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  4. PinkMonkey: I use Netflix, which is still primiarily Internet/mail, and have been impressed. Fast, fast delivery times. I haven't tried any of the pure digital download services, but I know Netflix plans to go that route once it's a little more viable bandwidth-wise and the demand is there. I have not seen the '62 version of Triffids (Netflix does have it, though). -- Mykal

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  5. It's a long time since I've seen this, so forgive my hazy recollections - but my copy of this film has odd moments of (what seems like) tacked-on voice-over of some guy reading scripture. Right at the end, and I think at a couple of points within.
    What's that all about?
    And do catch up with Triffids - it's a beauty.

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  6. Matthew: you must get the DVD release of this film from Synapse (if for nothing else that the stripper fight). As indicated by my post, I loved Leslie Daniels and his very theatrical take on Kurt.

    PinkMonkey and Matthew: You guys talked me into it. I ordered Triffids from Amazon today (I only use Netflix when one of the movie blogs -- like Matthew's excellent one: http://movietone-news.blogspot.com/ -- peaks my curiosity).

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  7. Well, I will have to find a way to borrow it after you are finished reviewing it or break open my piggybank and join Netflix. I am rereading the book, right now. One of my favorite classic sci-fi novels.

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  8. PinkMonkey: I've never read the book, but the general thinking seems to be the book far outshines the film. We will have to judge for ourselves, won't we? email me with regards to the loan - see the email button on sidebar. -- Mykal

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  9. Thoughtful, interesting, and above all informative review! I just caught this for the first time this year, nothing like what I expected

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  10. Carl: Thanks for the kind words, and back at ya! Any friend of Troma is a friend of mine! -- Mykal

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  11. What a genius blog! You're the first blogger I've read who's left me wanting to watch the film more by the end of the post. I've never seen the film but I'm going to scour the DVD stores for it now... Great visuals too. I'll be back!

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  12. Thanks, SP, and welcome aboard. I'll try to keep things interesting. -- Mykal

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  13. I love this movie! Awesome review! A very enjoyable read as always. - Rob

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  14. I feel it my duty to warn you that the book outshines the film to a degree beyond rational comparison...
    (I'm talking Triffids here, by the way.)
    The book is a classic piece of twentieth century sci-fi literature. (The BBC tv version from the eighties, available on DVD over here, is a very good adaptation of it.)
    The film, on the other hand, is what literary theorists call 'a laff riot'. Yet beautiful, too, in ways I know I don't need to explain to you people.

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  15. Matthew: I approach the film fully warned!

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  16. You are spot on again. I felt like I needed a shower after watching this movie...it is SO grimey and smutty. Truly a wonder of sleaze filmmaking.

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  17. Billy: This film in unconciously sleazy. The chances are very good that the film-makers wanted to portray a swingin' club! That's the beauty part. Thanks for commenting! -- Mykal

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  18. In this laid back operating room, nurses and doctors simply gaze down at the dying/dead man as though vaguely interested and only mildly confused – a staff doing the daily crossword puzzle in the break room.

    But there's a more famous fictional doctor who acts the same way, Dr. Leonard McCoy. Even when he's in his own sick bay with (presumably) life-saving supplies and equipment all around him somewhere, he doesn't leap around the room and try to revive his patient. The most he'll do is administer one useless shot of something before letting death take his patients quietly.

    Also, why didn't Dr. Cortner simply drug Jan into insensibility? Presumably even a disembodied head will respond to tranquilizers.

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  19. Monoceros : With regard to the question about drugging Jan, I am able, naturally, only to offer a guess. I would imagine that this bodiless head experiment was extremely important to young Dr. Courtner. Had he found it necessary to sedate the head to keep it sane, it may had negated the overall success of the project. A head kept alive, sure, but one so driven insane as to be useless for the projected body graft. Better to hope that Jan "snaps out of it" rather than drug her head into a stupor.-- Mykal

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  20. Mykal,
    Re: your question about Jan's head awakening on Doris's body, see Kurt's comments about Jan's spirit being both in her brain and her heart. This is an old, old, pre-science trope that shows up in a lot of horror movies. Recall "The Hands of Orlac" (1924) or, to a lesser extent (thanks to MGM rewriting Orlac to suit a Scooby Doo template) "Mad Love" (1935).
    Hope this helps!

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