CAPSULE: THEY SAVED HITLER’S BRAIN (1963/197?)

Beware

DIRECTED BY: David Bradley/an uncredited director

FEATURING: Walter Stocker, Audrey Caire, Carlos Rivas, Dani Lynn, Bill Freed

PLOT: They (renegade Nazis in South America) saved Hitler’s brain (actually, his entire head).

Still from They Saved Hitler's Brain

WHY IT WON’T MAKE THE LISTThey Saved Hitler’s Brain is awfully strange, and strangely awful, but it has one huge strike against it: most people would rather cut off their own head than wade through the nonsensical plot just to see a few brief moments of a Hitler impersonator in a pickle jar.

COMMENTS: If you pick up Hitler’s Brain on a lark because of the title and pop it into the DVD player without any sort of background information, you’re going to be terribly confused.  In one scene, some dull-witted secret agents in miniskirts and bushy Nixon-era haircuts are lackadaisically investigating a research scientist’s assassination; then, in the next scene, men in starched suits with narrow lapels and sturdy Eisenhower-era ‘dos are sitting in at a no-dames-allowed intelligence briefing. We watch people we don’t know get abducted by gunmen in sedans while the female agent calmly watches, then follows from her Volkswagen bug, taking care to stay out of the same shot with the kidnappers.  It’s almost as if someone took two separate movies and slapped them together to make one longer feature (and that impression grows even stronger during a chase scene when the prey is fleeing at night, but the pursuers are chasing him during broad daylight).  In fact, that’s exactly what happened: by all accounts, Hitler’s Brain was the result of persons unknown shooting 20-30 minutes of additional footage to add to a ten-year-old B-movie titled Madmen of Mandoras so that it would be long enough to fill a two-hour television time slot.  The newcomers made little attempt to match the film stock or wardrobes of their additions to the style of the older movie. The main dramatic effect of the added chapter is that, one third of the way through the movie, the lives of the people we assumed to be the hero and heroine are senselessly wasted in what turns out to be a meaningless subplot.  The original Madmen of Mandoras footage is more enjoyable than the newly shot scenes, in the same way that herpes simplex I is more enjoyable than herpes simplex II.  The entire plot, of course, is completely absurd (there’s not even an attempt to explain why Hitler thought it necessary to cut off his own head in order to escape the Allies), and while the movie never quite rises to the level of the truly weird, there are plenty of odd, ridiculous moments: the casual stuffing of a dead body into a phone booth, fact the Mandoran operative insists on calling Hitler by the pet nickname “Mr. H,” and a beatnik chick with a crazy made-up hepcat lingo (“never glum a pony in the tonsils!”)  There’s also the occasional strangely evocative, expressionist shot—as when Nazi soldiers appear in a doorway framed so that their heads are missing—to remind you that filmmaker David Bradley (whose first movie credit was directing Charlton Heston in an adaptation of Peer Gynt) isn’t a complete hack.  Those flashes of talent make the existence of this incompetently plotted movie even more mysterious. Of course, the movie’s chief attraction is the bodyless head man, and Hitler’s brain—er, head—indeed steals every scene he’s in.  The Nazi noggin (played in equal parts by actor Bill Freed and a wax sculpture) only remembers two words of German (“macht schnell!”) but is capable of conveying ludicrous emotions with the body parts he has left, grinning evilly when his henchmen are shot and darting his eyes from side to side nervously when danger approaches.  Still, the pleasures of this film are few and far between; it’s more a movie to watch just to brag that you’ve seen it, rather than something to check out for actual entertainment purposes.  It’s not impossible to enjoy Hitler’s Brain, but to do so will probably require a small group of quick-witted friends ready with quips locked and loaded, and a large supply of adult beverages for anesthetizing your own brain.

We don’t usually link to these kinds of comedic reviews, but this guy’s badmovies.org synopsis/review is worth reading, if overlong and over-sarcastic. They Saved Hitler’s Brain is frequently packaged together with other el-cheapo drive-in films and is available as part of several different collections, including Drive-In Cult Classics, Vol. 2 (8 movies, including the original uncut Madmen of Mandoras for comparison purposes) and Mill Creek’s Pure Terror 50 Movie Pack (where it plays alongside Manos and Horror Rises from the Tomb).

WHAT THE CRITICS SAY:

“[The added prologue] only adds confusion and a sense of weirdness, as it is patently obvious that the new footage does not match the footage of MANDORAS in any way… [the movie] really only has a great bad title and a couple of campy scenes that entertain; the rest is snoozefest incarnate.”–Dave Sindelar, Fantastic Movie Musings and Ramblings (DVD)

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