The Brain That Wouldn't Die

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The Brain That Wouldn't Die
Brainthatwouldntdie film poster.jpg
Directed by Joseph Green
Produced by
  • Rex Carlton
  • Mort Landberg
Written by
  • Rex Carlton
  • Joseph Green
Music by
  • Abe Baker
  • Tony Restaino
Cinematography Stephen Hajnal
Edited by
  • Leonard Anderson
  • Marc Anderson
Sterling Productions
Distributed by American International Pictures
Release date
  • May 3, 1962 (1962-05-03)
Running time
82 minutes
Country United States
Language English
Budget $62,000 (estimated)
The Brain That Wouldn't Die

The Brain That Wouldn't Die (also known as The Head That Wouldn't Die) is a 1962 American science fiction horror film directed by Joseph Green and written by Green and Rex Carlton.[1] The film was completed in 1959 under the working title The Black Door but was not theatrically released until May 3, 1962, when it was released under its renamed title on a double bill with Invasion of the Star Creatures.[2][3]

The main plot focuses upon a mad doctor who develops a means to keep human body parts alive, he keeps a woman's severed head alive for days, and keeps a lumbering, misshapened brute (one of his earlier failed experiments) imprisoned in a closet.


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

While driving to his family’s country house, Cortner and his beautiful fiancée Jan Compton (Virginia Leith) get into a car accident that decapitates Jan. Cortner recovers her severed head and rushes to his country house basement laboratory, he and his crippled assistant Kurt (Anthony La Penna) 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. She 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 (Adele Lamont), 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 (Eddie Carmel), 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.


Virginia Leith as Jan Compton
  • Jason Evers as Dr. Bill Cortner
  • Virginia Leith as Jan Compton
  • Anthony La Penna as Kurt
  • Adele Lamont as Doris Powell
  • Bonnie Sharie as Blonde Stripper
  • Paula Maurice as Brunet Stripper
  • Marilyn Hanold as Peggy Howard
  • Bruce Brighton as Dr. Cortner
  • Arny Freeman as Photographer
  • Fred Martin as Medical Assistant
  • Lola Mason as Donna Williams
  • Doris Brent as Nurse
  • Bruce Kerr as Beauty Contest M.C.
  • Audrey Devereal as Jeannie Reynolds
  • Eddie Carmel as Monster
  • Sammy Petrillo as Art

Production notes[edit]

The film was shot independently around Tarrytown, New York in 1959 under the working title The Black Door,[2] the title was later changed to The Head That Wouldn't Die.[4] Some prints of the film use both the opening title The Brain That Wouldn't Die and the closing title The Head That Wouldn't Die.

The monster in the closet was played, in his first cinematic role, by Carmel, a well-known Israeli-born circus performer who worked under the name "The Jewish Giant", he was the subject of a photograph by Diane Arbus, titled "The Jewish Giant at Home with His Parents in the Bronx, NY, 1970".[5]

The score, titled "The Web", was composed by Abe Baker and Tony Restaino and was noted for creating a sinister mood.[3]


The movie was picked up for release by AIP and released in 1962 on a double bill with Invasion of the Star Creatures. AIP cut it for theatrical release.[4]

Home media[edit]

An uncut, 35mm print was used in the Special Edition release by Synapse Films in 2002. Running 85 minutes, this version features more of the stripper catfight, as well as some extra gore.

The Cinema Insomnia version was released on DVD by Apprehensive Films;[6] in December 2015, Shout! Factory released a Blu-ray edition of the uncut film, with a high-definition transfer taken from the negative.[7]

Mystery Science Theater 3000 episode[edit]

The film was featured in episode 513 of Mystery Science Theater 3000, this film was the first movie watched by Mike Nelson in Mystery Science Theater 3000, after he replaced Joel Robinson (Joel Hodgson) on the series. Jan in the Pan is the nickname given to the female lead by the characters on the show.

In a poll of Bring Back MST3K Kickstarter backers, which raised money for an eleventh season of the show, The Brain that Wouldn't Die was ranked #23.[8] Writer Jim Vorel ranked the episode considerably lower, at #125 in his ranking of MST3K's 191 episodes,[9] saying, "It’s a dark, fairly ugly movie with extremely cheap sets, but Mike’s presence puts the crew into an upbeat, energetic state that contrasts nicely with it."

The MST3K episode was released on VHS by Rhino Home Video in 1996 and as a single-disc DVD in April 2000[10]; the uncut version version of the original movie was also included as a bonus feature. On November 26, 2013, Shout! Factory re-released the MST3K version as a bonus feature part of its 25th Anniversary DVD boxed set.[11]


The movie was first adapated as a stage musical in October 2009 with The Brain That Wouldn't Die: A New Musical, produced at the Overtime Theater in San Antonio, Texas. The world premiere musical comedy was a collaboration between composer Phillip Luna and writer/lyricist Jon Gillespie.[12]

The movie also inspired the musical stage production The Brain That Wouldn't Die! In 3D!!! by Tom Sivak and Elizabeth Gelman, that premiered at the New York Musical Theatre Festival in October 2011.[13]

In 2015, Pug Bujeaud's musical theatrical production The HEAD! That Wouldn't Die was mounted in Olympia, Washington by Theater Artists Olympia. Lyrics and music were written by the ensemble cast and the TAO collective.[14]

Soon thereafter, Hollywood screenwriter Bruce Bernhard acquired the rights to The Brain That Wouldn't Die and adapted the script as a staged musical comedy, creating a completely new score for it with songwriter Chris Cassone, the official world premiere for The Brain That Wouldn’t Die!…the Musical was at the Footlight Players Theatre in Charleston, South Carolina on October 13, 2016.[15][16][17]

In popular culture[edit]

  • The film was featured on the nationally syndicated television show Cinema Insomnia.[18] The host segments revolved around the horror host Mr. Lobo finding a suitable flower pot for his co-host and houseplant Miss Mittens.[19]
  • A clip from the film was featured on the US version of the comedy game show Whose Line is it Anyway?, in the game "Film Dub".
  • Lines from the trailer for the film were sampled in the Fight Like Apes song "I'm Beginning to Think You Prefer Beverly Hills 90210 to Me", which appeared on their 2008 album Fight Like Apes and the Mystery of the Golden Medallion.
  • In the 2002 video game No One Lives Forever 2: A Spy In H.A.R.M.'s Way, two guards turned into "man crates" are having a conversation. One of them quotes the movie's most famous line ("Like all quantities, horror has its ultimate, and I am that!"), and the other recognizes it and adds, "I never thought I would ever relate to Jan in the Pan".
  • Aspiring horror actresses who appeared as contestants on the VH1 series Scream Queens reenacted one of the scenes from the film. In the fourth episode of the first season, contestants reenacted the scene in which Jan voices her hatred for the doctor as part of a challenge.[20]
  • On November 9, 2010, the band Black Cards released a music video for their song "Club Called Heaven" based on the film.[21]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Young, R.G., ed. (2000). The Encyclopedia of Fantastic Film: Ali Baba to Zombies. Hal Leonard Corporation. p. 72. ISBN 1-557-83269-2. 
  2. ^ a b American Film Institute (1997). The American Film Institute Catalog of Motion Pictures Produced in the United States. 1. University of California Press. p. 120. ISBN 0-520-20970-2. 
  3. ^ a b McGee, Mark T. (1984). Fast and Furious: The Story of American International Pictures. McFarland. p. 232. ISBN 0-899-50091-9. 
  4. ^ a b Gary A. Smith, The American International Pictures Video Guide, McFarland 2009 p 33
  5. ^ "The Jewish Giant". Retrieved October 26, 2007. 
  6. ^ "The Ultimate Mr. Lobo DVD Collection!". Retrieved November 21, 2010. 
  7. ^ "The Brain That Wouldn't Die". Shout!Factory. Retrieved 5 January 2016. 
  8. ^ Bring Back Mystery Science Theater 3000 Update #41. Kickstarter. Retrieved on 2017-10-25.
  9. ^ Ranking Every MST3K Episode, From Worst to Best. Vorel, Jim. Paste Magazine. April 13, 2017. Retrieved on 2017-10-25.
  10. ^ MST3K FAQ. Satellite News. Other Media. Retrieved on 2017-10-25.
  11. ^ MST3K: 25th Anniversary Edition. Shout Factory. Retrieved on 2017-10-25.
  12. ^ Joseph, Rachel (October 7, 2009). "When Bad Ain't Good". Retrieved August 6, 2014. 
  13. ^ Hetrick, Adam (August 30, 2011). "Stephen Buntrock and Kathy Voytko to Battle The Brain That Wouldn't Die! In 3-D!!! at NYMF". 
  14. ^ Clayton, Alec (October 8, 2015). "Theater Artists Olympia revised their huge B-movie hit". 
  15. ^
  16. ^
  17. ^
  18. ^ "Cinema Insomnia, with your Horror Host, Mister Lobo! - SHOW INFORMATION". Retrieved 21 November 2010. 
  19. ^ "The Brain That Wouldn't Die on cinemainsomniatv". Livestream. Retrieved November 21, 2010. 
  20. ^ Mwangaguhunga, Ron (November 20, 2009). "VH1 Renews 'Scream Queens'". Retrieved August 6, 2014. 
  21. ^ "Black Cards - Club Called Heaven". 

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]