The Brain That Wouldn't Die

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This article is about the film. For the song by the Tall Dwarfs, see Slugbucket Hairybreath Monster.
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
Starring Jason Evers
Virginia Leith
Eddie Carmel
Music by Abe Baker
Tony Restaino
Cinematography Stephen Hajnal
Edited by Leonard Anderson
Marc Anderson
Sterling Productions
Distributed by American International Pictures (US theatrical)
Release dates
  • May 3, 1962 (1962-05-03)
Running time
82 minutes
70 minutes (video)
Country United States
Language English
Budget $62,000 (estimated)

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 released until May 3, 1962, when it was renamed.[2][3] The main plot focuses upon a mad doctor who develops a means to keep human body parts alive. He must eventually use his discovery on someone close to him, and chaos ensues.


Dr. Bill Cortner (Jason Evers) is a successful surgeon who has just saved a patient pronounced dead in the emergency room—a patient of his father (Bruce Brighton)—with an unorthodox surgical method. After the younger Cortner and his beautiful fiancée Jan Compton (Virginia Leith) are involved in a fiery car accident that decapitates Jan, Cortner collects her severed head and rushes it to his home basement laboratory, where he revives it and manages to keep it alive in a liquid-filled tray.

Cortner now decides to commit murder to obtain an attractive new body to attach to his fiancée's head. As he hunts for a suitable specimen at a burlesque bar that night and on the street the next day, Jan begins to hatch a murderous plan. Filled with hatred for Cortner because he won't let her die, she communicates telepathically with a hideous mutant in the laboratory cell, telling it to kill the scientist.

The mutant monster begins by mortally wounding the doctor's assistant, Kurt; after feeding the monster and doing some general cleanup around the laboratory, he unwittingly stands before the hatch in the door of the monster's cell (which he left unlocked), whereupon the monster thrusts his giant arm through and tears the assistant's arm off.

In the meantime, Cortner brings figure model Doris Powell to his residence under the pretense of studying her scarred face for a promised plastic surgery operation. Drugging her drink so that she loses consciousness, he carries her down to the laboratory. Jan protests when Cortner explains his plan to transplant her head onto this new body, and he summarily tapes her mouth shut.

Dr. Cortner then stands in front of the door to the monster's cell, with the hatch again left open. This time, the monster grabs the scientist through the door and, securing him in a headlock, applies such force that the door is torn from its hinges. The monster is finally revealed as a seven-foot giant with a horribly deformed head (presumably the result of various failed transplants and/or other surgeries). In a scene that is often edited out of television broadcasts, the monster subsequently bites a chunk of flesh out of Cortner's neck. In the struggle, the laboratory is set ablaze. Cortner lies dead on the floor as the monster carries the unconscious Doris away to safety. As the lab goes up in flames, Jan is heard saying "I told you to let me die" followed by a maniacal cackle.[4]


Virginia Leith as Jan Compton
  • Jason Evers as Dr. Bill Cortner
  • Virginia Leith as Jan Compton
  • Leslie Daniels 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.[5] 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 is played by Eddie Carmel in his first cinematic role. Carmel was 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".[6]

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.[5]

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 Mystery Science Theater 3000 version of the film (along with the uncut version, included as a bonus feature) was released by Rhino Home Video. On November 26, 2013, Shout! Factory re-released the MST3K version as a bonus feature part of its 25th Anniversary DVD boxed set. The Cinema Insomnia version was released on DVD by Apprehensive Films.[7] This film was the first movie watched by Mike Nelson in Mystery Science Theater 3000 (episode 513), after he replaced Joel Robinson (Joel Hodgson) on the series. Jan in the Pan is the irreverent nickname given to the female lead by the characters on the show.


The movie first became 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.[8]

The movie also the inspired the musical stage production, The Brain That Wouldn't Die! In 3D!!! by T Sivak and E Gelman, that premiered at the New York Musical Theatre Festival in October 2011.[9]

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.[10]

In popular culture[edit]

  • 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.[13]
  • On November 9, 2010, the band Black Cards released a music video for their song "Club Called Heaven" based on the film.[14]

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. ^ The Brain That Wouldn't Die at AllMovie
  5. ^ a b Gary A. Smith, The American International Pictures Video Guide, McFarland 2009 p 33
  6. ^ "The Jewish Giant". Retrieved October 26, 2007. 
  7. ^ "The Ultimate Mr. Lobo DVD Collection!". Retrieved November 21, 2010. 
  8. ^ Joseph, Rachel (October 7, 2009). "When Bad Ain't Good". Retrieved August 6, 2014. 
  9. ^ Hetrick, Adam (August 30, 2011). "Stephen Buntrock and Kathy Voytko to Battle The Brain That Wouldn't Die! In 3-D!!! at NYMF". 
  10. ^ Clayton, Alec (October 8, 2015). "Theater Artists Olympia revised their huge B-movie hit". 
  11. ^ "Cinema Insomnia, with your Horror Host, Mister Lobo! - SHOW INFORMATION". Retrieved 21 November 2010. 
  12. ^ "The Brain That Wouldn't Die on cinemainsomniatv". Livestream. Retrieved November 21, 2010. 
  13. ^ Mwangaguhunga, Ron (November 20, 2009). "VH1 Renews 'Scream Queens'". Retrieved August 6, 2014. 
  14. ^ "Black Cards - Club Called Heaven". 

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]