The Brain That Wouldn’t Die (1962)

Fifty-nine years ago today, the film The Brain That Wouldn’t Die premiered as half of a double bill with Invasion of the Star Creatures. Due to a flawed copyright notice, it has always been in the public domain and has had several versions, one three minutes longer that advertised extra gore and an extended stripper catfight scene. It’s been featured on an episode of Mystery Science Theater 3000, adapted into at least four musicals and one satirical film, and Jack Nicholson’s character goes into great detail of the movie plot in Heartburn.

Title: The Brain That Wouldn’t Die
Directed by: Joseph Green
Produced by: Rex Carlton and Mort Landberg
Written by: Rex Carlton and Joseph Green
Starring: Jason Evers, Virginia Leith, and Leslie Daniel
Music by: Abe Baker and Tony Restaino
Cinematography: Stephen Hajnal
Edited by: Leonard Anderson and Marc Anderson
Production Company: Sterling Productions
Distributed by: American International Pictures
Release Date: May 3, 1962
Running time: 82 minutes
Country: United States
Language: English
Budget: $62,000

Dr. Bill Cortner saves a patient who had been pronounced dead, but the senior surgeon, Cortner’s father, condemns his son’s unorthodox methods and transplant theories.

While driving to his family’s country house, Cortner and his beautiful fiancée Jan Compton become involved in a car accident that decapitates her. Cortner recovers her severed head and rushes to his country house basement laboratory. He and his crippled assistant Kurt revive the head in a liquid-filled tray. But Jan’s new existence is agony, and she begs Cortner to let her die. He ignores her pleas, and she grows to resent him.

Cortner decides to commit murder to obtain a body for Jan. He hunts for a suitable specimen at a burlesque nightclub, on the streets, and at a beauty contest. Jan begins communicating telepathically with a hideous mutant, an experiment gone wrong, locked in a laboratory cell. When Kurt leaves a hatch in the cell door unlocked, the monster grabs and tears off Kurt’s arm. Kurt dies from his injuries.

Cortner lures an old girlfriend, figure model Doris Powell, to his house, promising to study her scarred face for plastic surgery. He drugs her and carries her to the laboratory. Jan protests Cortner’s plan to transplant her head onto Doris’s body. He tapes Jan’s mouth shut.

When Cortner goes to quiet the monster, it grabs Cortner through the hatch and breaks the door from its hinges. Their struggles set the laboratory ablaze. The monster, a seven-foot giant with a horribly deformed head, bites a chunk from Cortner’s neck. Cortner dies, and the monster carries the unconscious Doris to safety. As the lab goes up in flames, Jan says, “I told you to let me die.” The screen goes black, followed by a maniacal cackle.

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