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I guess I just like liking things

We’re going old school this week, with a movie from 1963. Black and white goodness people. Well not that good, this movie sits firmly in IMDB’s list of the 100 worst movies (it’s number 86) and enjoys a rating of 2.5 stars out of 10. It was actually made in 1958, but the awesome artistic and social merit of the movie made people afraid to release it for fear of revolution! Revolution!

Real doctors have shinier hazmat suits

Real doctors have shinier hazmat suits

“Can death be outwitted?” asks the standard “I wish I was narrating the Twilight Zone instead” narrator. The narrator discusses the wonders of modern medicine while a man in a hazmat suit wobbles around what might be a laboratory of some kind. He’s just sort of flipping switches and opening panels, I’m not sure he’s a real doctor to be honest. The narrator discusses organ transplants, and wonders aloud if it would be possible to transplant a human brain. Scientists, he tells us, think it’s possible. The guy in a hazmat suit has walked into a cupboard. The narrator mentions that brain transplants are something to do with vampires, which is a leap I wouldn’t have made on my own.

The camera zooms in on a window in the cupboard thing and there’s an almost naked lady with an unconvincing wig strapped to a board. The lights are strobing, because of all the science. “Will the old steal the bodies of the young and beautiful?” asks the narrator. “Probably not,” I answer, but he continues with a horror story of old people having their brains crammed into new bodies. The girl in the cupboard has been dug up from a grave. She’s been dead for days, and buried only yesterday. The guy in the hazmat suit presumably dug her up for evil, light flickering experiments. Those are the worst kind. The doctor, who is the hazmat suit guy, has grafted a new brain into the body. The woman is then lowered into a freezer, which seems like a waste of a good brain. “The next step,” says the narrator, “Is a human brain.”

Oh, it’s not a freezer, it’s a “cyclatron” which creates nuclear fission and activates the brain. It just looks like a lot of dry ice in a tube. There is a very long shot of mist blowing around a bit before the girl is raised out of the cyclatron. “Has he created another – ” says the narrator, the rest of his words are completely drowned out by 1960s B Movie music.

The make up budget was 80 cents and a bit of string

The make up budget was 80 cents and a bit of string

In a cemetery, a security guard is wandering in the dark with a flashlight. The crypt he’s heading for is brilliantly lit so I guess the deceased had electricity added. The music is all dramatic as the guard climbs down the stairs, waving his flashlight around in the least effective manner possible. Inside the crypt, Doctor Frank is chipping his way into a newly sealed vault. He needs another body for his crazy experiments. The guard is a drunk, concealing booze behind monuments, so he’s not really paying attention to potential body snatchers. He does hear the chipping noise though, and is on his way to investigate when he’s grabbed by what might be a werewolf vampire. Or a guy with sideburns in need of a dentist. I do not know which. The guard is strangled by the … tall hairy guy while Doctor Frank continues to chip away at the vault. It contains a beautiful young woman, who is breathing. (Dire DVDs breathing corpse: Check)

The doctor is miffed to discover the hairy guy killed someone, because his morals are weird. Turns out the hairy guy is the result of grafting an animal brain into a human body. This, as we all know, makes fangs grow. That’s how bodies work. On the plus side, the hairy guy is basically Igor to Doctor Frank’s Frankenstein, so at least he has someone to carry the bodies around.

Back at the lab (after a long sequence of shots of the car driving along various roads), someone peers out of the upstairs window. Inside, the body is laid out on the usual Mad Scientist table. She’s only been buried a couple of hours, so the chances are better this time says the narrator. The doctor has been promised live bodies, but I don’t know who has made this promise. I also don’t know what this young woman died of, unless it was the tiny cut under her eye. The narrator is being very helpful, filling in all the blanks. The woman upstairs is a bitter old biddy who wants her brain crammed into a young body. The doctor has to perfect this technique first, obviously, hence the lab full of brain transplant corpses.

The old woman is wondering if she’s been a fool throwing her money at the Doctor. Hetty March is her name. She’s incredibly wealthy and is funding this whole crazy brain scheme out of her own pocket in order to preserve her life. Hetty is looking at a pile of papers which are the details of various young women who are not dead. Hetty has advertised for a young female maid, so these lasses have applied for the job. One of them, after the interviews, will probably have her brain scooped out. Her companion, a middle aged man named Victor, seems to know the plan and isn’t freaked out at all.

The radio breaks for news, which is about the body snatching. Hetty is unimpressed that her doctor has been digging people up and calls him upstairs. He’s busy in the lab though, walking slowly around the place in his hazmat suit and pulling levers. Extra dry ice has been added to the cupboard. Perhaps the earlier problems with the transplants were entirely due to insufficient fog. The Doctor goes into the cupboard just as Hetty and her chap arrive. Hetty was in a wheelchair earlier, but can walk now.

Victor is not thrilled about all of this, because there’s too many failures. We don’t know if the “I cut my face a little bit and then died” girl is going to be okay yet, but I can tell you she’s astonishingly naked with only two little strips of metal to preserve her modesty. Considering the age of the movie, I’ve decided to have the vapours about this. The doctor emerges from the cupboard. He’s already taken off the hood of his hazmat suit while inside, so he’s living on the edge. “The bodies must be fresh!” he says, turning around to fiddle with some levers again.

Hetty and Victor complain to the Doctor that the police know about him digging people up, and want to know if he’s trying to cause a fuss. The Doctor has planned ahead – one of his random buttons will cause a nuclear reaction. Sure, it’ll blow up the house and cause some radioactivity, but he’s set it up to just damage the house. Must be that new-fangled radiation that stops at fence lines. Hetty peers in through the window and says “There’s no sign of life.” The Doctor smiles, goes inside and waves his hand over the chest of the young lady, who wakes up.

The Doctor leaves the cupboard and a bunch of lights flash (Science!). The Doctor explains that the hairy guy was able to take a transplant because he was still alive when they found him in a car wreck. This girl doesn’t have a brain anymore because she died, so she can move around but not think. You know, like a [insert group of people you don’t like here]. Victor knocks on the window, and the same footage of the girl opening her eyes is played again.

The first meeting of the Made Up Accents Committee

The first meeting of the Made Up Accents Committee

A plane lands and the passengers file off. There’s some plinky zany music as a young woman waits outside the airport. She’s joined by another woman who can’t walk without swinging her hips so far she might actually dislocate one. The music changes to have a beat on each swing of the hips, like a Carry On movie, but without the fun. She sits next to the first girl and asks for directions to Hollywood in an accent I can’t place, and may not exist in the real world. The first girl has a handy map and tells the second girl it’s 16 kilometers, or 10 miles away, and points in the direction to go.

“Are you going to Hollywood?” asks the first girl, who has now developed a random accent of her own. The second girl has lost hers as she explains she’s about to be a domestic for 12 months. “Me too!” says the first girl. Oh, the first girl is from Austria (land of the bendy accents) and the second girl is from England (land of the usually-American accents). A third girl has joined them, she says – with an American accent – “I no speak English very good.” She gives the first girl an address, which the first girl is bright enough to realise is the same one she has. In the car park, Victor is peering out of his car window looking for the ladies. I mean these ladies, not just random “Hey baby, how you doin’?” ladies.

The girls are driven to the house, while the narrator explains that they are fresh, young bodies (steady there chap) with no families or friends for thousands of miles. Victor is apparently wondering which one Hetty will choose as the container for her aged brain. I’m guessing the blonde.

Hetty peers out of her window, she’s back in her wheelchair, and watches the ladies come inside. The girl who doesn’t speak English spots the hairy guy outside the window, looking sad. She screams. The other girls get a bit jumpy, but Victor orders them into the house and tells them none of them may leave without permission. They file upstairs where they meet Hetty. She’s a grumpy old lady this one, and demands they come in and be inspected. She’s most interested in the so-called British girl who is now Southern American and tells Victor to get the doctor.

The doctor is in the cupboard and needs some time to restock the dry ice, so Victor wanders around the lab a bit. The girl from before is standing there, staring into space because of her rotted brain. Eventually the doctor comes out of the cupboard and is sent upstairs to look at the ladies. As he leaves, Victor murmurs “She doesn’t have a mind – think of the advantages!” Creep.

Hetty sends the girls off with the doctor to be examined. None of the girls say “Wait, what?”, they all just follow the doctor out of the room like good little lambs. Victor is about to follow, but is caught on Hetty’s walking stick. She laughs at him, knowing he wanted to go and look at partially dressed ladies. She then berates him for not disconnecting the phone, because she’s pretty sure at least one of the girls will call the cops.

The doctor has brought the so-called-Mexican girl (Anita) in to see Hetty, showing Hetty the birthmark on the girl’s back. “Hideous” says Hetty, “Use her for experiments.” The other two are perfect medical specimens. As Anita leaves, the hairy guy howls, making her jump.

In the lab, the Austrian girl (Nina) tries to resign, but Hetty threatens her with the Immigration Department. The British girl (Bea) is untroubled, showing off her body and giggling. Hetty has selected her to receive the wrinkly old brain. Victor comes in and offers congratulations to both Hetty and Bea. Bea, who can’t have any idea what’s going on, giggles. Girlishly. She is shown to a luxurious bedroom and flings herself about on the bed.

Anita is told to find her room in the basement – oh noes, that’s where the evil lab is! Nina is sent upstairs. Victor takes Anita to the basement himself to make sure she doesn’t do any irritating running off. Nina, deciding everything is weird, tries to call the cops, but the phones are out of course.

In the night, there is a knock on Anita’s door. She opens it slowly, and then screams. The following morning, the other two girls are polishing silver. Nina wants to know where Anita went. Bea wants to try out the largest possible range of British accents. She’s giving it a good go. Hetty arrives to tell them they’re cleaning things wrong, and Nina asks where Anita went. “She left,” says Hetty. “I wish to leave too,” says Nina. Hetty pretty much says “Nope” although why she needs two young ladies for one brain is yet to be explained.

The lights are flashing like crazy in the lab, and there’s the longest shot of dry ice in a tube yet. This must be serious science. Hetty is upstairs, in her wheelchair. I’ve figured out she can walk if she’s downstairs but needs the chair if she’s upstairs – must be an altitude thing. She calls down the stairs for Nina, but Bea comes up instead. This is no good, Bea is not permitted to do stairs because it will build ugly muscles in her legs. Bea goes to find Nina and is lead to the basement by Nina. Nina has been looking at Anita’s room, and noticed all her stuff is still there. Bea is worried they’ll get in trouble and leaves.

I am just at the point now where I wish they’d hurry up and hack someone’s brain out. Anyone’s brain, I’m not fussy. Bring in a new character even. Anyone.

As the two girls leave to go upstairs, they spot a creepy door and break in. The doctor hears them and goes to investigate, but they’re hiding. With a shrug, the doctor returns to the lab. He’s holding a cat, because he’s about to do some brain transplanting. The other two girls peer into the lab, freak out and run upstairs to pack their stuff. They wait for Hetty to go away and then sneak out.

Hetty, meanwhile, has discovered some clue at the door in the basement which tells her the girls have been snooping. It’s a good thing they’re taking forever to get out of the house, otherwise she might not be able to stop them.

The doctor has apparently already slapped the kitty brain into Anita because he’s lurking in the cupboard again. The girl with no brain is still wandering aimlessly, looking worried. Seeing the open door, she walks quickly up stairs. Without a brain. Hetty is still rushing about looking for her British body-to-be. Both girls are in Bea’s room, because that’s better than escaping. Hetty locks them in.

Anita is in the lab, staring at a mouse in a cage because she has the brain of a cat now. There’s exactly zero marks on her head so I guess the Doctor does all the surgery nasally (let that image sink in for a minute or two). She’s also got the vocal chords of a cat, making real cat noises. Since a cat brain is smaller than a human brain, let’s assume the rest of the space in Anita’s head is filled with popcorn. To prove that the brain transplant worked, the Doctor frees the mouse. Anita grabs and eats it. She’s basically now a cat with thumbs, which would be amazing for a cat. Imagine waking up with thumbs!

The Girl With No Brain is wandering in the garden. Nina spots her through the window and calls Bea over. Nina thinks it’s Anita, but Bea isn’t sure. The Girl With No Brain is now wandering in the woods somewhere, unless this house is on a huge property. Then again, if you’re carving up young ladies in the basement you want some space between you and the neighbours. Hairy guy is lurking on a rock, and he pounces on the brainless girl. Bea and Nina recoil in horror from the window.

The doctor hears the commotion and rushes out into the garden with a pointy stick. The pointy stick is a formidable weapon against hairy guys, and the hairy guy backs off. The doctor leans over to check Brainless girl for a pulse, and then the footage runs backwards for a minute and makes me think my media player is broken. The doctor chains the hairy guy to a wall. There’s a ruin in the garden for just such an emergency.

Bea and Nina are out of Bea’s room now, back being domestics. Victor is certain they won’t run away because they know they’ll be Hairy Guy’d to death if they do. They’re trying to figure out a way to escape, but there’s an electric fence. Bea says Victor likes her, so she’ll try to get the car keys off him.

Bea is a subtle seductress, swinging her hips over to Victor and smooching him firmly. It works, he stands up and gives her some kissing while she rummages around in his pockets. He pulls away to check on Hairy Guy and then takes Bea outside. They stroll around the garden, but Hetty is watching from her window. I don’t know how much she can see, the picture is so dark I can barely make them out. She calls for Victor who abandons the buxom Bea for the elderly, grumpy but very wealthy Hetty. Bea slumps on a bench, but Anita is sitting on top of the pavilion thingy. Bea reaches up to her but Anita is a cat now and scratches at her. Bea screams and falls over.

Nina is in Bea’s room, listening to hairy guy snarling. She opens the window and peers out, looking up to see Anita on the roof. Nina dashes up a zillion flights of stairs to the roof. Anita claws at her, but then realises she doesn’t really have claws and backs off. Nina persists, following Anita along the roof line. Anita tries to climb down the wall, but falls to her death while Nina emits a half-hearted scream.

Nina rushes to the basement to get the doctor, and finds him, Hetty and Victor around a bed, with Bea laying down. Her eyes are bandaged. She’s unconscious (from falling down softly, always a hazard). Hetty tries to be kind to Nina, but Nina tells her to get out, and to take Victor with her. The doctor returns and tells Nina he’s preserving Bea’s eye in case he can operate later, but for now she’s blind.

The eye is preserved in a glass box which makes sparking noises and flashes a lot. More science! The doctor, as it turns out, is annoyed that he hasn’t been given a Nobel Peace Prize for his work to preserve bits of body. I think they have a “No Mad Scientists” policy, but I might be wrong. He’s only working for Hetty because of the money, he knows his work will save lives one day. Bea wakes with a standard “Where am I? I can’t see!” and Nina comforts her. Bea remembers what happened and begins to wail, but the doctor jabs her with a sedative and she calms. “Am I to be next?” asks Nina.

She is. Hetty has been to town to change her will and make a hair appointment under Nina’s name. She’s also bought a bunch of clothes for Nina to model, so Nina will look pretty when Hetty’s brain is in her. Nina is with Bea, but has to go upstairs when Hetty returns. She promises to try to get them out, but Bea tells her “forget about me” because she’s all blind and sad.

Nina is modelling for Hetty now, and the narrator has woken up to tell us how pleased Hetty is with her impending body. Victor drops in to look at Nina in her underwear, but Hetty sends him away. He’s not needed now and he won’t be needed when Hetty is young and beautiful again. Victor drops a hint about what’s going to happen, and Nina wants to know more. Victor doesn’t answer, and Hetty sends Nina away to get some rest.

Victor, robbed of his wealthy girlfriend, is getting quietly drunk. Nina finds him and asks him what’s going on. Victor explains that Hetty has changed her will to leave all her money to Nina, who will be Hetty, and then will fake her own death to inherit. It’s certainly a plan. “Help us get away” says Nina. Victor agrees. He sends her out to the car, but stops her to write a note and have her sign it. I can’t tell you what the note says because it’s shot on a weird angle.

Nina slips out to the car, but Hetty knows something is up and is lurking in shadows rolling her eyes about. Victor takes a gun out of a drawer and rolls his eyes about. Two can play the eye rolling game. He’s so busy with his eyes he fails to notice Hetty creeping up behind him. She stabs him with a hat pin. Possibly a thin letter opener. He dies pretty much instantly.

Nina has visited Bea to tell her she has to come, she just has to! Dashing back upstairs, she finds Victor dead on the floor. Hetty is waiting for her. Nina screams and protests, but the doctor is there with chloroform. Nina comes to in the lab, strapped to a table beside Hetty. Hetty makes a speech about how men don’t like old ladies, they just like old ladies with money. The doctor is a bit sad about Victor. He injects Hetty with anesthetic. I say “injects” but it’s more “stabs the old lady firmly with a needle from a great height.”

The next scene is the doctor holding a tiny, tiny brain. He’s having deep thinks about things, while wobbling the brain around in his dirty mitts. After some shots of buzzing equipment and dry ice, Nina opens her eyes. The doctor is pleased she’s awake, he has things to discuss. Apparently the paper she signed was making Victor her legal guardian (it’s binding, it was written in pen). The doctor is unstrappng something from the bed beside Nina. It’s the cat. He’s crammed the brain of Hetty into the cat. There’s not a lot of room in a cat’s head, so I’m going to say he probably minced it first.

With Hetty (to all intents and purposes) dead, all her money has gone to Nina. Is Nina saved? No, the doctor is going to keep her for parts, along with Bea. He’s planning to transplant a more compliant brain into Nina, so he goes into the cupboard to set things up. Hettycat locks him in the cupboard and presses the nuclear detonation button, dissolving the doctor in a pit of dry ice.

Bea, hearing a kerfuffle, gets out of bed. She’s only lost one eye, which means when she takes the bandage off she can see. She staggers over to help Nina but as they make their escape she goes back for her eyeball and is blasted to death by a zappy science thing. Nina runs through the collapsing house. As it burns, she flees into the night, followed by Hetty cat. Credits.

B-Movies are sort of supposed to be bad. They don’t have to make much sense, you can just shout “Science!” and get away with it, so I can’t really mock the whole nonsense of this brain swapping thing. Apart from the part where a whole human brain was shoved into a cat. That made no sense, even in the context of the movie.  Okay and the “having a dog brain turns you into a dog” also didn’t make any sense. Actually, putting a cat brain into a person and having the new personcat not just die of shock at not having four legs anymore…

This wasn’t even really a B-Movie. It was maybe a D-Movie. E-Movie? The script was so overly dramatic and cliche riddled it just wasn’t even funny. The performances varied from “not bad” to “So wooden, termite risk.” Bea’s British accents were amusing though – she’d vary from Royal Family to Eliza Doolittle to Southern USA in the space of two lines. Nina didn’t even bother with the accent after the first scene. Anita doesn’t count, she only had three lines before she was a kitty. Victor and the Doctor were just plain bad. Stilted, forced and stiff.

This one isn’t even one I’d recommend for a laugh. I generally would say “Sure, these movies are terrible but you should watch them for a laugh”. This one was just bad. Badly plotted, badly lit, terribly edited, acted poorly and written terribly. It is available on though, if you’ve an hour to kill and no respect for your brain.


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