To really enjoy the trashier side of cinema, you have to look at it's lurid past. Before the likes of "I Drink Your Blood" and even the works of Herschel Gordon Lewis, there were several seedy movies-mostly nudie flicks-that catered to the baser aspects of human demands. Not in the mood for one of the cinematic greats of old? Then how about Dwain Esper's hilariously bad "Maniac!", or in this case, Joseph Green's shot in 1959 but not released until 1962 oddity "The Brain that Wouldn't Die"?
Dr. Bill Cortner (Jason Evers) has run into a bit of a conundrum-he and his girlfriend Jan (Virginia Leith) got in a car wreck, and only her head came in tact. No worries though, because with the wonders of science, he's able to keep her head alive in a pan. As he goes looking for a new body, it seems that Jan in a Pan (thank you MST3K) isn't too grateful for Billy keeping her alive, and begins to plot revenge. Oh, and she has telekinetic powers and uses them to read people's thoughts and communicate with the monster in the closet.
I know it was featured on Mystery Science Theater. I know that the acting is mostly terrible. I know that at the end of the day, this is a bad movie. And you know what? I don't care. "The Brain That Wouldn't Die" is a fun example of pre-Grindhouse era exploitation with gore (a torn off arm, surgery and a ripped out throat) that, while not a big deal these days, was back then. It's also got women in either lingerie or bathing suits, sleazy jazz music, melodrama, questionable science, despicable characters, an ugly monster and so much more that helped set the standard for what would become favorites in the likes of 42nd Street New York. Best of all, it clearly isn't taking itself too seriously, with the likes of gratuitous cat fights and a great last line.
If it does run into any problems, it's that it gets really talky. I normally don't mind dialogue in movies, but there are several conversation scenes that could have been shorter. Also, there are several plot holes here. Where are the police? Why is it called "The Head That Wouldn't Die" at the end credits? Maybe that was the original title.
I digress though, because this is exactly what a "so bad it's good" movie should be, and then some. Fans of cinematic garbage, this is a must. Everyone else-well, why would you be reading this review anyway?