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It’s that time again, as the B-Masters’ Cabal joins together
to examine, that’s right, someone who’s coming apart.
We show that sometimes the whole is less than the sum of the parts.
And You Call Yourself a Scientist: Severed Ties (Not Active Yet)
B-Notes: The Frozen Dead
Bad Movie Report: The Beast with Five Fingers
Badmovies.org: Soul Vengeance
Cold Fusion Video Review: Chatterbox
Opposable Thumbs Films: The Eye
Teleport City: Fiend Without A Face
Disembodied and/or sentient body parts constitute a venerable, if oft silly, tradition in the horror movie genre. I’m not going to run down individual titles, since I imagine our friend Apostic will do so in his conjoined review of The Frozen Dead – oddly, another Nazi-themed Disembodied Head movie. (As opposed to Underwater Nazi Zombie Movies, such as Shock Waves and Zombie Lake.) Instead, I thought I’d examine the symbolic content inherent in each category of errant appendage.
Admittedly, some body parts just aren’t that scary or potentially dangerous. For instance, a severed foot hopping around, even if it could kick you, would look pretty risible. Besides, it wouldn’t maneuver as logically as a severed hand might. A foot only moves because it’s attached to a leg. Left to its own devices, it really isn’t going anywhere. A detached hand, meanwhile, can pull itself along with its fingers. We know because this mode of locomotion has been employed in films dating back seventy years and more. A hand can also choke an opponent, pull the trigger on a gun or manipulate a light switch, amidst myriad other talents.
Still, there’s no denying that each sub-genre of the Body Part genus carries with it its own symbolic concerns. A Disembodied Brain represents something different than a Disembodied Hand. What’s interesting is how concrete these parameters are when you examine the various groupings.
We’ll start at the top, logically enough, with Disembodied Brain Movies. Disembodied Brains represent, unsurprisingly, raw intelligence at its most malign and/or powerful. Brains unencumbered with bodies are assumed to be more potent, presumably because they’re not expending ninety percent of their energy keeping their fleshy bits functioning. So powerful are they that they often end up telepathically controlling the very scientists who provided them their independence. DBs also evince a monstrous lack of ‘human’ emotion, due, symbolically, to being severed from the heart. (Or, more literally, the sex organs, although this is more often implied than flatly stated.) In either instance, whether the horror is the brain itself or instead being at the telepathic mercy of one, the fear is dehumanization.
(As noted in my review of The Brain from Planet Arous, the giant space brain from that movie represents an amusing counterpoint to the above conception. Yes, the evil brain Gor does possess the obligatory vast telepathic abilities. Yet rather than exhibiting cold, inhuman logic, Gor wantonly indulges in physical pleasures once it procures a corporeal body. In this, the film more aptly falls into the Disembodied Head grouping as explicated next.)
So, on to Disembodied Heads. If Disembodied Brains lose the emotions necessary to experience horror at their new state of existence, Disembodied Heads oft exhibit little but. DBs are noticeably nonhuman, DHs a grotesque but recognizable diminution of human life. DBs tend to become something more than once they were, DHs cruelly less. More prosaically, heads are more likely than brains to possess the power of speech, despite a patent lack of lungs to power whatever remnants of vocal chord remain in their severed throats. This trait as well serves to humanize DHs more than DBs.
We can split DH movies into two discrete groupings. In one, heads are brought back to life against their wishes. See as examples The Brain That Wouldn’t Die, The Man Without a Body – in which the head in question in Nostradamus’! — and Die Nackte und der Satan, aka The Head. Such crybaby craniums tend to bemoan their fates at some length, pleading to be released to death. Nor do they generally intend harm to others, although one ignores their importuning at their own risk.
(Notice the odd fact that producers apparently believe the word ‘brain’ to be better for movie titles than the word ‘head.’ Both The Brain that Wouldn’t Die and They Saved Hitler’s Brain actually feature Disembodied Heads. Or maybe the word ‘head’ is just in itself problematic. Look at The Thing That Wouldn’t Die, also a DH movie.)
Along with Victim Heads are the more representative Evil Heads. While the above heads rail against the horrific nature of their continued existence, Evil Heads shrug it off as a temporary inconvenience. Victim Heads wish only to die. Evil Heads, contrarily, represent an unseemly will to live, and by extension a lust for power, no matter how ghastly the price.
This obsession necessarily connotes danger to others, as Evil Heads will stop at nothing to realize their goals. This is why Attached Heads, as in The Incredible Two-Headed Transplant and The Thing with Two Heads, invariably attempt to seize control and ultimately ownership of their host bodies. (Grown second heads do likewise; see The Manster.) Meanwhile, the cogent coconut in The Thing that Wouldn’t Die uses sorcerous mojo to force others to locate its body, and commit a murder or two along the way.
Disembodied Heads, therefore, represent Ego gone mad. (As noted, when the heads themselves don’t represent such, the scientists who bring them to life do.) If DBs are intelligence unconstrained, DHs are selfish desires run amok. Obviously Hitler’s bean falls into this category. A man who so wishes to rule that world that he’s willing to become spend twenty-odd years as a head in a pickle jar must be taken seriously.
On a side note, Matt Groening appears to have a thing for disembodied heads. Preserved talking heads in jars, ala They Saved Hitler’s Brain, are a staple element of Futurama. The noggin that most often makes an appearance, in fact, is that of Richard Nixon (nice of Groening to get a couple more kicks in after the guy’s dead), which exhibits exactly the maniacal traits outlined above. Meanwhile, Hitler’s jarred cranium, right out of this movie, has made more than one memorable sight gag appearance in episodes of The Simpsons.
The most popular type of Body Part Movie is, needless to say, the Killer Hand movie. As noted before, this is partly a question of functionality: Hands are the most useful parts of our bodies, and thus would presumably be the most dangerous were they to go astray. Such movies fall into two categories, the Disembodied Killer Hand and the I Can’t Control My Killer Hand movies. The former run the gamut from The Beast with Five Fingers to Oliver Stone’s The Hand. It’s also an extremely popular trope in anthology horror movies and television shows.
The still-attached-but-uncontrollable hand movies remain more numerous, thanks mostly to nearly half a dozen adaptations of the novel The Hands of Orlac. The book details a concert pianist who loses his hands in an accident. Desperate, he agrees to receive a revolutionary hand graft operation. He eventually learns that his new hands came from an executed murderer and that they have a mind of their own. Other movies where hands come to control their owners are Demonoid and the recent Idle Hands, while the teen hero in The Crawling Hand also loses his will to an alien life form inhabiting the hand of a blown-up astronaut. (Meanwhile, an actual alien hand threatens the leads in the ’50s sci-fi mainstay Invasion of the Saucer Men, infamously remade by super-hack Larry Buchanan in Attack of The The Eye Creatures.
The underlying theme here is the same thing that obsesses director David Cronenberg: Disease, especially those resulting in the degenerative failure of the human body. These films feature people who lose mastery of their own bodies, whereupon they find that their minds are at the mercy of their flesh. The fear here is that your body will become a prison rather than a tool, an object of helpless loathing and disgust.
Finally there are films featuring sentient genitals. These tend to be comedies, for obvious reasons, including Chatterbox and Him and Me, both of which feature talking crotches. Killer Genitals would be also generally be considered de facto comic material in Western movies. (With exceptions, of course; see the Soul Vengeance review at Badmovies.org for this very roundtable.) Only in Asian films, in which sorcerers turn into carpets of writhing penises to rape scores of women and such would they be used for horror. The fear expressed in these sorry flicks is hardly worth explicating: Uh oh, my genitals have a mind of their own and are getting me in trouble.
As you might have noticed, modern films featuring body parts increasingly use them for comedic effect. Once a decade, it seems, someone releases a straight horror flick on this theme. (Demonoid in the ’70s, The Hand in the ’80s, Body Parts – yet another Hands of Orlac knock-off — in the ’90s). More often, however, the idea is mined for its black comedy potential, presumably because audiences are now too literal to really be scared by such a thing. Thus we have killer hands, both of the attached and loose variety, in films like Evil Dead II and Idle Hands. Meanwhile, the Disembodied Head trope was employed in Re-Animator with powerfully satiric effect. In that film we reach the summation of the current disdain for the genre: When an evil DH threatens to expose the film’s anti-hero, he sneers in return “Who’s going to believe you? You’re just a head.”
Of course, our current subject doesn’t feature just any headâ€¦
As the opening credits appear, the first item of note is that the Director of Photography was Stanley Cortez. Amused and/or appalled film buffs will recall that Mr. Cortez handled the cinematography for such films as The Magnificent Ambersons and Night of the Hunter. (Jabootu aficionados, meanwhile, will remember that he performed a similar function on Doomsday Machine, amongst several other turkeys.) Once again, as if there was ever any doubt, we learn that there is no justice.
We open with a jittery shot of signage. This identifies our locale as the El Camino Technological Institute, Chemical Division. Inside, staff scientist Dr. Bernard is stashing papers from a safe in his briefcase. His mien indicates nervousness over these actions. This footage, it is obvious, was shot in the late ’60s, as indicated by the man’s attire. In an unfortunate mix of styles prevalent at the time, Bernard combines the sartorial style of the office nerd – bad tweed sports jacket, bow tie, glasses – with the longish hair and bushy mustache then considered ‘mod.’ In sum, he resembles the Rob Reiner of All In the Family, had he starred in a grainy black and white biopic of Wally Cox.
The ‘office’ in which this occurs is tellingly bare boned, with set dressing mainly confined to thumb tacking some gas station street maps to the walls. Bernard calls a Mr. Van Pelt and reports that he has “the formula.” (Yeah, it’s always a good idea to call your accomplice from inside the institute you’re robbing.) Outside we cut to an unpleasantly tight close-up of another fellow sporting long hair and a mustache. Ah, the ’60s, can they ever come back fast enough? This fellow, meanwhile, is evidently a hood, in that he’s attired in a manner reminiscent of Jake Blues. A round face further suggests the resemblance.
Receiving his own orders from Van Pelt via a pay phone – wow, it’s like watching one of those elaborate Mission: Impossible episodes – Jake watches as Dr. Bernard leaves the Institute. He then gets into a gorgeous huge black Cadillac, which inevitably calls to mind the Bluesmobile, and joins a fellow who, naturally, looks like Elwood Blues. We cut to Dr. Bernard climbing into his own car in a gas station parking lot – hey, you get your free sets where you can find them – and then we cut to stock footage of a car blowing up. Despite the fact that it’s a different make than the one Bernard got into, I think it was supposed to be his. Having witnessed this, the ersatz Blues Brothers drive off.
We cut to a building identified as C.I.D. Headquarters, that being the Criminal Investigative Division of the FBI. Inside, a bureau chief is perusing a copy of the Los Angeles Times. The huge headline screams “Bomb Kills Gov’t Scientist.” (I didn’t know The Times used contractions in their headlines; you learn something new each day.) Underneath this blaring headline we see three feature articles. The first is “The Farmers Market Story;” followed by “The Gilmore Story,” and finally “Mayor of Hollywood On Hand to Welcome Distinguished Visitor.” None of which seem to have much to do with the main story. More oddly, all three article leaders are in radically different fonts.
The Bureau Chief drops the paper and leans over to answer the intercom. This despite the fact that it hasn’t buzzed. Then he ‘listens’ and says, “Good, send him right in,” despite the fact that they also forgot to dub in the voice of his secretary. At this point we have begun to question the character’s sanity, but a man does in fact enter his office. Perhaps the bureau chief is telepathic, and wasn’t leaning forward to use the intercom but rather because he had a leg cramp.
Numerous factors reflect the fact that all we’ve seen up to now was shot five years after the original film was completed. (The new footage was then edited in to pad the movie out for TV showings. See AFTERTHOUGHTS.) In the 1963 footage, everyone is dressed in a conservative style that recalls the ’50s. In the 1968 footage, however, most everyone sports late ’60s / early ’70s hair and dress.
Odder is that office is adorned with the traditional government photo of the president, only here it’s a picture of Eisenhower!! Who was, at the time this latter stuff was shot, at least two presidents removed. (And in 1963 was already out of office.) I can only assume this was a pathetic attempt to pretend that the entire film is taking place prior to the Kennedy administration, despite the follicular evidence to the contrary.
The visitor is Vic, more or less the hero of the new footage. His hair isn’t as long as many of other actors’, although it’s way too full for the suggested time period. Added to his thick mustache, he looks rather like your typical early ’70s porn actor. Vic had previously worked security on Dr. Bernard and the “L7 Project.” (Oooh!! Spy stuff!!) This established, the chief leans forwards and asks, in his TV announcer-esque voice, “What do you know about G-Gas?” Leading us to await details of some miracle antacid product.
Instead, the L7 Project was meant to find an attitude to G-Gas, which is apparently pretty nasty stuff. The Chief believes that the formula for the antidote – which was detailed in the papers Dr. Bernard had taken from the safe – died with him in the explosion. Vic demurs, however, asserting that a Professor Coleman was actually responsible for the find. Which seems like the kind of information that would be on file somewhere, but there you go. The Chief seems rather surprised to hear of this. (Gee, three guesses where this is going.)
Vic is assigned to find Bernard’s killers. He also assigns Vic a new partner on the case, a Tony Gordon. (Gee, three guesses where this is going.) Gordon will rendezvous with Vic at his apartment the next day. I guess government agents work out of their home a lot. Vic leaves and Russ answers the intercom, which actually buzzes and everything this time. Even a voice issues from it. This reports that he has a call from the country of Mandoras. It’s also now, via the secretary’s voice, that we learn the Chief is none other than *gasp* the mysterious Van Pelt. He updates his caller on the latest info and promises that he will arrange for Prof. Coleman’s demise.
An awkward zoom shot takes us to the balcony of Vic’s apartment, which looks less the home of a G-Man than the digs of a part-time actor. (Hmm.) He’s sitting outside, drinking coffee and perusing the top-secret dossier on Dr. Bernard that he took home with him. Soon a rattletrap Volkswagen Beetle parks nearby and a somewhat chunky young blond woman climbs out. Given her looks, his looks, the music and the jittery fashion in which this is filmed and the whole ‘porn movie’ vibe is stronger than ever.
Since the woman seems to be in some distress, Vic calls out to her. It seems she can’t find an address she’s looking for, a fact she petulantly proceeds to whine over. This, in case you failed to ‘get’ it, is ‘Toni’ Gordon. (Which raises a question. Van Pelt obviously has to have Vic killed, since he knows about Coleman. So why would he assign him a partner on his time-wasting assignment? Especially since Vic didn’t seem to be expecting him to. On the other hand, this is a field operative who can’t locate street addresses. So maybe he’s hoping to kill two birds with one stone.) Milking this situation for its supposed comedy value – such as it is – Toni calls out her name. Misunderstanding (because who’d expect a woman agent – get it?!!), Vic replies “He isn’t here yet.”
Once he’s figured things out, Vic waves her up. Inside his ‘apartment’ — the purported interiors of which are clearly filmed inside a house — he invites her to sit down and goes to fetch her some tea. From the kitchen he makes some actually funny foot-in-his-mouth remarks. (Explaining his surprise that she’s a woman, he notes “I guess they didn’t figure this would be a very dangerous assignment.”) Whereupon she gets cranky and threatens to leave, and they exchange some inane banter insulting each other, but manage to work everything out.
They head outside to discuss the case, sitting in what is undoubtedly the backyard of the house used for the interiors of Vic’s supposed apartment. In any case it doesn’t match the swimming pool area we saw earlier. During their talk Toni’s mini skirt rides nearly up to her crotch, adding again to the general porn movie-ness of everything. Perhaps the kids making the new additional footage misunderstood the film’s title. Anyhoo, Toni reports that Dr. Bernard had spent some time down in Mandoras, a South American country known for harboring a colony of Nazis who had fled Germany. She also pushes Vic to interview Coleman, despite Van Pelt having put him off limits to their investigation.
We cut to a darkened room. A film is demonstrating the effects of G-Gas on an elephant. (??) (I can hear Dr. Freex screaming in horror now.) We again learn that it’s really nasty stuff. Basically it threatens All Life on Earth, and “many nations have it.” This lecture, by the by, is being given by Prof. Coleman. The loss of his antidote, he warns, “would mean complete annihilation of the world!” Uh, well how about printing it in the papers? Then everyone would have it.
Out in the hall – good security – a Hispanic gentleman wanders up and demands to see Coleman. As he pleads another man enters the hall to check out the commotion. Seeing this, the first guy nervously leaves. The meeting adjourns and Coleman converses with CID agent Phil Day, who’s also his son-in-law. Phil is introduced to Frank Dvorak, Coleman’s new assistant and the fellow who was checking out Hispanic Guy in the hallway. This stuff is our introduction to the original film and its actors, and their looks, acting style and the manner in which things are filmed all call attention to this fact.
After Phil leaves Coleman gets a call. He’s told that his daughter Suzanne has been kidnapped and is ordered to go to her apartment. Upon arriving he finds Suzanne’s boyfriend David sprawled unconscious on the floor. Roused, David confirms that Suzanne’s been taken and they head off to call the police. We cut from this to Toni driving up in her Volkswagen. She arrives in time to see the Professor and David themselves get kidnapped as they leave the building. This raises some questions, including why Toni would be going to Coleman’s daughter’s apartment, and why it’s nighttime where Coleman is and daylight over where Toni is. (Actually, the answer to the second query would be: Because she’s in a whole other movie.)
The transitions between the old and new footage grow more awkward. Despite the fact that the guys seen kidnapping Coleman and David don’t look anything like the Blues Brothers guys, it’s the latter shown driving the car as they take off. Then we cut briefly to Vic, who’s sitting up in bed reading a report. This serves to highlight the fact that the scenes with Toni following the Bluesmobile are still taking place in daylight. (I mean, c’mon, everything’s throwing deep, dark shadows, for Pete’s sake.)
The Blues Brothers arrive at a suburban house, park out in the street (!) and hustle a bad double for Coleman inside. (I guess they forgot that we just watched them kidnap David as well!) Toni parks and sneaks over to a window, listening in. This scene, by the way, constitutes one of the most ridiculous usages of the Cricket Rule I’ve yet come across. This stipulates that the sound of crickets on the soundtrack always indicates that a scene is taking place at night, no matter what the lighting conditions. Here, as noted, it’s broad daylight out. But, heyâ€¦crickets!
Jake Blues calls Van Pelt, reporting that Coleman is reacting badly to a drug they gave him. Van Pelt promises to swing by and check things out. After hanging up, one of the Brothers notes that he wants some air and goes to open a window. (That way if Coleman roused himself enough to yell for help – oh, never mind.) Proving a tad slow on the uptake, Toni allows herself to be seen. Cue a chase.
Toni takes off in her car and the Blues Brothers follow. (Personally, I’d bet on the huge Caddie over the Bug.) Then we see Vic wakened by a phone call. It’s Toni, who rather unwisely decided to pull over and jump into a telephone booth. Did you ever notice that people being chased by thugs never just drive to a police station? Because I have. Anyway, the Bluesmobile rolls up outside the booth and Jake pumps a couple of slugs into her.
Vic soon arrives at the Blues Brothers’ house, having gleaned the address from Toni ere she went. He’s alone, although you’d think that, having heard a fellow agent shot to death, you’d call for backup. The Professor and the Brothers are gone, natch, but Vic is surprised when Van Pelt appears on the scene. Seeing that the jig is up, Van Pelt makes to kill him. Instead, Van Pelt is shot down by the mortally wounded Toni, who, I guess, dragged herself all these blocks back to the house. Whatever.
Outside the Blues Brothers are pulling up, which makes no sense. If they were coming back, where have they been all this time? And why would they come back, now that there cover’s been blown? (OK, they left Coleman there, but Toni was only shot blocks from the house. Yet in the time it supposedly took them to return in their car, Vic got up, got dressed and drove over here from his apartment, while the barely alive Toni staggered all the way back as well.)
The Blues Brothers head into the house, and rather than lay in wait and ambush them, Vic scampers out a window. Man, we really need better intelligence operatives. Anyhoo, the Brothers, who are probably going “aw, crap, man, we just got back” hop back into their car and give pursuit to yet another agent. (What kind of neighborhood is this where nobody notices the dozen shots that have been fired in the last ten minutes?) This goes on for a while, until we go from daytime to nighttime again, whereupon Vic’s car changes into a completely other model and dramatically smashes into an electrical transformer, courtesy of stock footage from the Robert Mitchum moonshine-running epic Thunder Road. The Bluesmobile pulls up, and Jake (daylight) nods his head in satisfaction upon surveying the wreck (darkness).
After this we won’t see Jake and Elwood again, and everyone else from the new footage is now dead. And so, nearly half an hour into things, we segue back to the film proper. We cut to Phil the Son-in-Law’s house, where spouse KC is readying things for a romantic evening. This basically involves wearing a negligee and preparing a couple of highballs. Her timing is good, for Phil soon pulls up into the driveway.
Mysterious Hispanic Guy, the one who wanted to see Coleman earlier, also shows up outside their house. He, like Toni, had witnessed the Professor’s (and David’s) kidnapping, and with the advantage of actually being in the same film as them. Inside the happy couple are locking lips and such. Later — and you can draw your own conclusions as what happened in the meantime — they emerges from the house dressed for a night on the town. However, an armed Hispanic Guy jumps from the bushes and forces them into his car.
Phil takes the wheel and their assailant, whose name is Teo, begins relating a grim, fantastic tale. Meanwhile, they are pursued by the Bluesmobile, which is once more being driven by the guys who kidnapped the Professor (and David). Up to now they’ve all been treated as being the same guys. Which means, in this version of continuity, that the Blues Brothers left behind the two dead agents, their dead boss, the drugged Professor, and somehow ended up following Teo, andâ€¦my brain hurts.
Teo puts his gun away and explains that the Prof has been abducted and taken to Mandoras. When this latter part occurred, well, you got me. After all, the last we saw of the Professor he was being hustled into a nearby house by Jake and Elwood. Which, moreover, happened this very evening. I guess this sort of thing can prove a problem when adding a bunch of unrelated filler material to your movie years after completing it. Anyway, Phil stops at a light and the Bluesmobile pulls up and the Alternate Universe Jake (or Elwood – who knows?) fires a bullet into Teo.
As blood (theoretically) pumps out of him, KC shrieks “Oh, Phil, pull overâ€¦something’s wrong!” Phil asks what, which, considering the coinciding report of a handgun just now, makes me question his qualifications as a secret agent. Teo shows Phil how to flash a book of matches as a signal to his contact and then keels over dead. Hilariously, Phil drags the body into a nearby phone booth, fully in the view of two pedestrians who don’t say a word! He then calls Coleman’s office (with the body propped up next to him!), where assistant Frank stares at the phone without answering it. Either he’s a Natzi spy or, uh, he’s rude. “Your father doesn’t answer,” Phil notes. “[Teo] must have been telling the truth.” Yes, because if he’s not in his office at nine in the evening or whenever this is he clearly can only have been kidnapped and taken to a remote South American country by latter-day Nazis.
Phil reclaims his fedora off of Teo’ head (!), his corpse having proved a handy hat rack whilst Our Hero was making his call. Wedging the body upright in the booth, he closes the door on it. “We’ll leave him here,” he explains. “They’ll find him soon enough.” (OK, now I believe he works for the government.) His prediction proves ‘hilariously’ prescient, as a comic relief fat woman strides up and opens the booth. In a bit that defines the term ‘telegraphed,’ the body falls out and she screams in horror. Ha, ha, that’s what she gets for being fat and wanting to use the phone.
Phil and KC book a flight on Stockfootage Airlines and soon arrive in Mandoras. (You will never forget the chilling Stock Footage Airplane Landing and Taxiing Down the Runway sequence.) As they * cough, cough* deplane, we see them being annoyed by Mr. Sharon, an overly gregarious American businessman. We can also tell that he’s from Texas, not so much from his horrendous accent but rather because of his Stetson hat and string tie.
After Sharon splits, the couple stand out in the open and loudly say things like “Whoever abducted your father probably killed that man in the car.” (Especially amusing is that when the camera pulls back from a tight shot on the two, we see that they were blabbing all this whilst standing right in front of a local uniformed cop!!) Still, say what you will about Phil’s rather remedial skills at circumspection, but his statement proves that he’s a whiz at deducing the patently obvious.
Chief Alaniz, a sort of south of the border Boss Hogg type, comes over and introduces himself. He has orders, he explains, to provide them with transport to their hotel. Meanwhile, this is all being observed by a nervous fellow wearing sunglasses and a tied neckerchief, as well as two other guys standing off by themselves. Apparently this is what life was like before cable television. The first guy, seeing the other two, makes to bump into Phil and then runs off.
Phil and KC get into Alaniz’ car. As they drive off, the two guys that were watching them follow after. (I’m sure it’s just a coincidence that these guys down here in Mandoras drive the exact same model of car as the kidnappers up in the States did. Why, it’s even the same color, to boot. Huh, what are the odds?) We cut to Our Heroes arriving at the imaginatively named Hotel Mandoras. The airport must be pretty far from whatever soundstage, er, town they’ve been taken to. After all, it was bright daylight out when they arrived, and now it’s quite dark out.
The couple is bemused to find that their accommodations have been arranged for them. Alaniz and Julio, his deputy, see them up. (Julio’s character trait is that he’s always sleeping, which if he were Mexican would be an offensive ethnic stereotype. Luckily he’s Mandoran.) The desk clerk then alerts the neckerchief guy from the airport, who stealthily follows after them. Upstairs, the Cranes survey their hotel suite, which really doesn’t look all that South American. Oh, wait, I’m wrong. There’s a sombrero hanging on the wall. I guess we are in South America after all. My mistake.
Hearing a noise in the hall, Phil pulls KC to the side and douses the lights. A man enters the darkened room and Phil jumps him. The intruder is Neckerchief Guy, and he keeps trying to signal that he doesn’t want to fight in between knocking Phil to the floor. The fight comes to a halt when KC accidentally bashes her husband on the noggin with a vase. I think this is supposed to be a comical “oh, women!” moment, but maybe she saw how Phil was getting his ass handed to him by a half-hearted opponent and thought it would spare him a worse beating.
Once Phil comes to, NG tries to bolster his ego by telling him what a worthy adversary he was. He also points out that KC inadvertently gave him a hand. “With a wife like that,” Phil ruefully muses, “who needs a girlfriend?!” Apparently he got hit in the head harder than I thought.
Their guest, whose name is Camino — that’s imaginative — explains his presence. He tells Phil that he put something in his pocket when he bumped into him at the airport, which Our Hero now fishes out. (Frankly, Phil’s credentials as a trained gov’ment spOOk are becoming somewhat questionable.) The object proves to be a book of matches, opened as Teo showed them. Sensing a wad of exposition looming, Phil lights up a cig and sits back for the duration.
When Camino mentions Nazis, Phil tries to shrug the idea off. “Surely,” he maintains, “a few fanatics can’t upset the world?” Camino isn’t so sanguine, however. “It was a ‘fanatic’ who upset the world a great deal,” he hotly replies. Now, this is all true, at least to an extent. But let’s not forget that the fanatic they’re referring to also controlled one of the great industrial powers of the modern world and commanded the fervent loyalty of a populace hungry for war. As we shall see, his resources this time around are rather less impressive.
In one of the film’s few attempts at visual panache – and a failed one, so maybe that explains their paucity — Camino is framed in the right third of the screen so that (mostly) stock footage can accompany his tale in the blank space to his left. He tells of the end of World War II. He relates the circumstances of Hitler’s suicide as the Allies approached, and notes the rumors that accompanied the badly burned corpse identified as being his. (This actually is more or less what happened.) Here my friend Andrew Muchoney, sort of a WWII buff, wondered why the stock footage used to portray the battle featured American troops. After all, it was the Russians who first got into Berlin.
Back to Hitler’s supposed demise. “A large part of the world rejoiced at the news,” Camino continues, revealing a masterful talent for understatement. Even so, some were suspicious. “A lot of rumors had to be checked out,” he notes. “Nothing was left to chance!” (Huh?) Meanwhile, we cut to a rather bare boned ‘operating theater.’ Surgeons are attending none other than the Fuehrer, who, and I must admit I didn’t know this, was apparently a runty guy about five and a half feet tall. If only he had gotten into that prestigious Viennese jockey school, who knows how history might have been altered?
On the stock footage side of the screen a guy walks forward so that his face is next to the narrating Camino’, and we note that they might be twins. In fact, the other fellow was Camino’ brother, and (get ready for it) none other than the recently murdered Teo. You’d have thought that maybe Super SpOOk Phil would have noticed some kind of resemblance, considering that the two men are identical, except for Teo’s mustache. Or maybe at this point you wouldn’t.
“With a great deal of manipulation and help,” whatever that means, Teo had gotten himself a job amongst Hitler’s inner circle of physicians. As, no doubt, did many hombres hailing from South America. “The rumor was that Hitler was getting his daily shots of hormones from a battery of doctors,” Camino explains. “But the truth was worse than that!” What, even worse than hormone shots?! But it was those shots that gave Hitler his superpowers! (You know, I kid, but who knows what kind of super-scientific hormone shots required a “battery of doctors” to administer them?)
“[Hitler] had a tremendous fear of death,” he continues. Actually, at this point Hitler had a tremendous fear by being captured by some disgruntled Russians, which is why he shot himself. In any case, we’re told, this is why he always kept a supply of doubles around. Here his last two surrogates come out, and it’s obvious that they didn’t save the best for last. The second, if anything, looks (slightly) more like John Cleese than like Hitler. One imagines his generals wearily trying to act perplexed when the Fuehrer lines up with the other two and asks if they can pick him out. Anyway, he picks out the least unlikely of the pair, presumably to become Hitler’s official ‘corpse.’
Actually, it’s on this note that we get one of the film’s more humorous additions to Hitler lore: A spiffy new nickname. Fearful of death, as we’ve been told, “He created a succession of Mr. H’s.” Camino then continues to push the ‘Mr. H’ sobriquet throughout his tale. Now, I’m no expert on Adolph Hitler, but I have a hard time imagining anyone having the sort of informal relationship with him that would result in such a relaxed moniker. (Unless Arthur Fonzirelli had a German relative we didn’t know about.) If nothing else, wouldn’t ‘Herr H’ be more appropriate?
Oh, and you know how Hitler screamed out his sentences at rallies whilst wildly gesticulating with his arms? Well, it turns out he spoke like that in normal conversations, too, even when the other guy was standing right in front of him. Here Carmino silently puffs on his cigarette for a bit while we watch superimposed footage of Fuehrer yelling at his underlings. Presumably he told Phil and KC, “And in this particular instance Hitler screamed at them for a minute or two,” and then took a short breather so that they could imagine this in their heads.
“Mr. H became convinced that [his doctors] could give him perpetual life,” he resumes. Actually, this isn’t so far off, since rumor has it that a similar band of exiled Nazi medics has been performing a like function for cosmetics spokeswoman Cher for some years now. And so, with the allies knocking at his door, the plan goes into effect. We see some surgeons bend over Hitler’s neck, then the camera moves to Teo as he gets a pained expression on his face. Next a mysterious object is plucked into its new seven-gallon glass home.
I must point out that things are kept somewhat circumscribed at this point. The appearance of Hitler’s preserved living head later was, I think, meant to be a surprise. And if you had seen the picture under one of its original titles, like Madmen of Mandoras or The Amazing Mr. H (!), perhaps it would have been. Once the film was retitled They Saved Hitler’s Brain, of course, the shock of the revelation was somewhat diminished.
Meanwhile, the crew of doctors was shot down, so that the Fuehrer’s fate would remain a secret. Luckily, however, Teo survived his wounds. I guess the Nazis just never got that whole ‘execution’ thing down. “My brother Teo was severely injured but he didn’t die,” we’re told, “and he never forgot what he saw that day in the bunker!” Yeah, if I’d seen surgeons remove Adolph Hitler’s still-living head from his body and stick it in a fish tank, I’d probably remember it too.
With Berlin being invaded, Hitler’s head (wasn’t that a sitcom on Fox?) is smuggled out in a big German military cargo plane. This might be the sort of craft that you’d think would draw some attention from the Allies as it flew out of Germany, especially with them closing in on the country’s leaders, but there you go. Or maybe that type of plane was chosen because there was room for the Fuehrer’s noggin in the uber-head compartment.
Can I raise an issue that they seem to be skirting? If they were just going to fly him out of Germany right out in the open, why cut his head off?! I mean, couldn’t they have said he was dying of lung cancer or something, anything, to justify this rather extreme procedure?
Camino escorts the couple over to the window. Outside are three men, including one with a beard who looks like Mel Ferrer. “That is Vasquez,” Camino warns. “Sometimes he is called The Assassin!” (Good thing he’s not called ‘The Ninja,’ considering that he’s standing right down from their window.) At this Camino takes his leave, promising that he’ll be nearby when they need him.
We next see Phil and KC shopping for tourist junk. KC either isn’t all that concerned about her missing father and sister, or else she’s a much better actress than we’ve been led to believe. Next they pause to examine a rather dinky town fountain (after all, its on a set) before heading into a jive-joint nightclub. KC’s large boxed purchase is much fussed over, undoubtedly signaling a lame punch line in the not-too-distant future. As the couple looks over some menus we cut to a rug-cutting blond chick right out of an Elvis movie. Coincidently, this proves to be the missing Suzanne (!). Seeing her sister and Phil, she runs over to their table. In doing so she sits on KC’s newly bought dishes. Comedia!
Suzanne, who has sort of a Yvette Vickers thing happening, proves to be a surprisingly hot little number for the time period. First she mauls Phil right in front of KC, then she tosses around a bunch of jive slang (of a sort), confusing her square relatives no end. For instance, when Phil asks her what her kidnappers looks like, her reply is “Like the craziest!” She also refers to them as being “shaved cats.” (I was much relieved to learn this only meant they had crew cuts.) “Then what happened?” Phil queries. “And this time, answer in English!” Bada bing! Oh, and there’s one more fact about them. You see, they spokeâ€¦German! Ah, yes, my friends, the pieces are all starting to come together.
Anyway, once in Mandoras they gave her some money and cut her loose, the only stipulation being that she not try to contact anyone back home. Anyway, needing to pad the film out a bit (so that it could achieve the original films sixty-minute running time), we cut to a Carmen Miranda-manquÃˆ come out on stage and dance the Hootchy-Kootchy or something. Meanwhile, Vasquez – or, as he is sometimes known, The Assassin – appears near the back door. So we jump around for a while to *ahem* foster suspense, cutting from Vasquez to some nervous employees to the band to the dancer to Camino sitting at a corner table and back again.
Apparently this wasn’t busy enough, because Chief Alaniz and a couple of deputies also come into the joint. Meanwhile, the dancer tries to warn Phil without Vasquez – who’s sometimes known as The Assassin – catching on, while the latter begins to reach for his gun, following which Camino feels for his while a German at a nearby table brandishes a Luger andâ€¦ (I should note that during all this activity in an extremely small club, Phil the heroic CID SpOOk doesn’t notice a damn thing but the dancer’s, uh, charms.)
The German Guy fires, the spotlight dips, the dancer falls forward, more shots ring out, Vasquez – who was sometimes known as The Assassin – is fatally shot. Meanwhile, Phil only survives because the dancer had knocked him to the floor and out of danger, all while getting wounded saving his sorry ass. However, the girls have gone missing. Moreover, Alaniz arrests Phil for the murder of Vasquez, despite his evident innocence.
Phil is taken, via the traditional mocked-up-car-on-a-darkened-soundstage, out somewhere in the country. Ultimately they arrive at a large mansion. This proves to be the home of Juan Padua, Presidente of Mandoras. Also in attendance are KC and Suzanne.
Padua explains that he and his underlings are involved in a Plan to Take Over the World. Soon teams of insurgents will fan out across the globe and use the dreaded G-Gas to take over. (This is all left rather vague, no doubt because their scheme would become more evidently moronic the more the described it.) Then Tom Sharon – the Texan who met the Days on the plane, if you can remember that far back — enters the room, also being part of the plot. He has more lines here, and if anything the actor’s ‘Texas’ accent is even more horrendous than before. Frankly, it’s a bigger crime than his part in helping to betray the United States to a rogue Nazi faction.
Guards come and take them to some cells in the bunker under the mansion. The room they’re taken to is equipped with blinding floodlights and speakers emitting tremendous noise. Sitting on a bench directly under one speaker (yeah, don’t try to move away from it or anything) is Prof. Coleman. Apparently he is being tortured for the antidote formula for the G-Gas. Now, if I’m following this, the existence of said antidote is the only threat to their Scheme for World Domination. Which should mean that they’d just kill Coleman, since he’s the only guy who knows it. But what do I know.
Guys outside the cell turn off the noise. Oddly, the Professor isn’t even partially deafened or blinded after all of this, but instead recovers almost instantly. In fact, he’s most worried about David (Suzanne’s boyfriend, again if you can remember that far back), who was kidnapped with him. Then the door to the cell flies open, and we see the torsos of two men in Nazi uniforms, standing on stairs leading into the cell.
This represents a nice continuity error, since when Our Heroes entered through the same door it was floor level. Now the figures are on the suddenly materialized stairs so that their faces are hidden. This proves necessary because when they walks down into the room we see that one of them is *gasp* none other than David. Gee whiz-a-roonie. Maybe if he’d had more than one minute of screentime three quarters of an hour ago we’d be more shocked.
As usual, no one, especially trained agent Phil, notices David’s presence – despite the fact that he’s standing only four feet away from them — until he steps forward with a loud clomp. Suzanne leaps at him and he savagely slaps her down, apparently to make sure we ‘get’ that he’s a bad guy. Phil, who’s not exactly covered himself with glory up to now, stands to give the obligatory Take That, Fritz! speech. “So you’re the superior ones,” he sneers. “The slappers of women! The torturers of old men!” Yeah, that’ll learn ‘em.
Stung by this pungent criticism (‘The slappers of women’??), Goon #1 decides to show them what they’re up against. They are lead down the hall to a darkened room containing a really big self-lighting swastika sign. As the illumination grows, we see underneath it thatâ€¦They Saved Hitler’s Brain! Not only his brain, either, but its handy original carrying case as well. Again, had they not changed the film’s title this revelation might have had a bit more impact.
Releasing that they’re not just facing half a dozen Nazi-wannabes (I’ll believe in their world-wide agents when I see them), but also the living cranium of Adolph Hitler in a pickle jar, the demoralized group returns to their cell. Coleman accepts a cigarette and lights up with a book of matches. Phil notices — hey, everybody, Phil noticed something – that they’re from the club. When Coleman explains that a guard gave them to him, Phil realizes that they have a friend in the organization. (I guess I could carp that the ‘friend’ signal was actually a book of matches with the cover tucked open, while these were plainly closed in Coleman’s pocket, but that’s pretty small potatoes at this point.)
Hearing some guards approaching, Phil and Coleman hide by the door. Phil quickly disables the first guard with a karate chop, while the other guy falls to a similar blow (old man Coleman knows karate?!) from Coleman. Yeah, wow, this is like The Guns of Navarone all over again. However, the pistol-wielding Chief Alaniz, who appears with President Padua at his side, thwarts their escape. Or is it? It turns out that the two have been working against the Nazis from the inside. Alaniz hands his gun over to Phil.
Padua explains that the Nazi pretty much took over Mandoras after the war, bending the locals to their will. They’ve been playing along while waiting for a moment to toss a monkey wrench into their plans. Camino was, naturally, a part of this. In fact, he and Teo are/were Padua’s sons. Meanwhile, it was El Presidente who had Alaniz brings the Americans here, so that the Nazis would consider them captured and not further try to harm them. (Phil having been the target at the club.)
A couple of cars are waiting outside, and they head out. However, the two unconscious guards are found and an alarm sounds. Soon an entire Nazi Legion (well, OK, six guys), bayonets affixed to their rifles, come swarming after them. If, that is, six guys can ‘swarm.’ Our Heroes split into two groups so as to increase the odds that they will reach help. However, a third car follows them as they drive off.
Padua explains to Coleman and Suzanne (Phil and KC took the other car) that two German generals are arriving at some local caves by plane tonight. This leads to an exchange regarding the whole ‘Hitler’s head’ that suggests a language gap of some sort.
Alaniz: “They’re been planning the conquest of the world for eighteen years. Now that, that thing, says the time has come!”
Coleman: “Do they really follow its orders?!”
Alaniz: “Does it give orders, Senor Coleman? Does it really give orders?!”
Anyhoo, Goon #1 orders Operation G to begin. He then tells Tom Sharon to get into uniform. Sharon protests that he’s not in the army. “You stupid fool,” Goon #1 exclaims. “Did you really think you were better than the rest?” And so we learn again the valuable lesson that you just can’t trust Nazis. Then the Nazis assemble around their head of state (sorry) to explain that all is going according to plan. Impatient, Hitler’s head can only yell “Mach Schnell! Mach Schnell!” (This is why they needed the Fuehrer’s head in order to take over the world?) Then the head turns into a wax bust so that his pickle jar can be moved out into a waiting car.
In another brilliant scene, we see Phil and KC sitting in, that’s right, a mocked-up car sitting on a darkened soundstage. Since they’re being ‘followed,’ two flashlights are lit in the very near background. Despite the fact that these have been evident ever since they left the mansion, it’s only now that KC — KC, mind you, not Phil — notices that they’re being tailed. Well, duh, lady. Phil reacts by speeding up to perhaps forty miles an hour. “How am I doing?” he asks, since he’s apparently incapable of looking into the rearview mirror to see that the trailing car has *cough* somehow managed to keep up with him.
Reaching town, Phil and KC ditch the car and run into a nearby alley. Now, the other car was like five seconds behind them, but it then apparently slowed down so that they’d have enough time to hide before making an appearance. Sort of like when you cover your eyes and count to a hundred when playing Hide & Seek. In any case, it’s David who was following them. Why he happened to be sitting in a car outside the mansion just when the others were escaping is unknown, and pretty darn fishy. Still, IITS.
Hearing a noise, David follows after them. Since he’s marking his position by carrying a flashlight, Phil should have no trouble gunning him down. At least in the real world, which you may have guessed by now has little to do with our movie here. In a none-too-tense and rather poorly staged sequence, the frightened pair try to avoid being seen. Then to make things dumber David calls out that he doesn’t intend to hang around here until midnight. I can only guess that this is when some G-Gas is schedules to be released. Only why would you bother releasing any in Mandoras, of all places? And just what is their overall plan? Are they just going to annihilate everyone else in the world, or what? And if gas will kill everyone around here soon anyway, why is David bothering to hunt down Phil and KC?
I can’t figure this out. At 12:15, David yells, everyone in town will be dead. (Good thing the locals don’t take offense at this kind of talk.) “We need this area for our base of operations,” he shouts. Again, why? Once the attack takes place why would Mandoras be a good locale? Then he calls out that he doesn’t want to shoot, that they could just leave them here to their fates. Which makes sense, except that David does in fact try to shoot them the second they raise their heads. Soâ€¦whatever.
However, Phil’s been doing the bullet counting thing and figures that David is almost out of ammo. “A Luger holds eight bullets,” he explains to KC. Then he dodges forward, getting their assailant to fire his eighth round. This would be more impressive if David weren’t in fact carrying a Walther!! In fact, it’s the only Walther in the movie, so why the prop people didn’t provide David with one of the numerous Lugers we’ve seen is left to our imaginations.
Phil approaches David with his own gun drawn, explaining to the latter that his gun is now empty. David only smiles, though, and reaches for a second pistol he just happens to have jammed into his belt. Because that’s much handier, I guess, than carrying a spare magazine. Inevitably, this second gun is, that’s right, a Luger. Phil tries to shoot but his gun won’t fire (!). Luckily a shot rings out and David falls. Then Alaniz steps from the shadows, Camino at his side. Meanwhile, Phil has to slap the hysterical KC a good one to calm her down. This is the second woman slapped in this picture, leading me to wonder if the scriptwriter had some issues. In any case, next time Alaniz gives someone a gun he might want to load it first.
They head out to the caves where the German generals are due to land. (Hmm, why am I envisioning yet another Jabootu excursion out to Bronson Canyon?) Also on the way, we see, are the Nazis and Sharon. Along with Wax Hitler, since they couldn’t afford to cut a hole in the mockup car seat for ‘actor’ Bill Freed to stick his noggin through. Boy, though, those old cars sure had a lot of headroom. (All right, I’ll stop that now.) Anyway, just in case Wax Hitler didn’t look phony enough, they cut in inserts of Bill Freed Hitler. The effect is never less than jarring (OK, OK, sorry), and just calls attention to things.
The car pulls into the middle of town. There Sharon finds his son David’s body, which apparently the heroes moved from the secluded alley where he died out into the middle of the town square (!). (Of course they did, otherwise Sharon might never have found it.) Suddenly all of Sharon’s hopes and dream are dust, yada yada. Grieving, he starts giving one Nazi, who I just figured out is Frank, Coleman’s assistant for roughly thirty seconds from earlier in the movie — geez, who assembled this thing, anyhow? — some lip.
“You want to kill everything,” he whines. “Because you know that’s the only way you could rule the world!” Which, not to kick a guy when he’s down, seems like something he should perhaps have mediated on earlier. Anyhoo, he jumps at Frank and is shot down. Witnessing this from inside the car, the Bill Freed Hitler assumes the sort of evil grin that a bad actor might provide at the behest of a script direction reading “CLOSE-UP HITLER’S HEAD, WHICH NOW ASSUMES AN EVIL GRIN.”
Our Heroes arrive at the area around the caves, cutting through some woods to avoid detection. Meanwhile, the two Nazis with Hitler’s Bean arrive at Bronson Canyon. Who’da guessed? Following them are six whole troops who park right in front of the cave that was home to Ro-man, Gor and TV’s Batman, amongst many others. Meanwhile, some of Our Heroes ready themselves for action (in a manner of speaking). Camino and the imaginatively name Pablo will stake out one point, Alaniz and Phil another. As the former duo head out, Suzanne grabs Camino and gives him a big smooch. Well, you can’t say she’s stingy with her affections. I mean, as far as I can tell she met this guy within the last hour or so. It must be that whole Latin Lover thing.
The plane arrives overhead. Assuming, that is, that ‘overhead’ is the direction you find stock footage. Ah, memories. I’ll never forget the fellow who I sat next to at one B-Fest long ago. We had begun a friendly quip rivalry, and up to this movie were fairly evenly matched. Upon beholding this particular image, however, he shouted, “THEY SAVED HITLER’S PLANE!!” and left me eating his comedic dust. Here’s to you my friend. I’m still bitter after all these years.
Seeing three people get out of the Hitlermobile (although there were only two guys in it after Sharon was killed) from a raised position at quite a distance in the pitch black, KC gasps that one of them is Frank Dvorak. Long story short, they wait for the plane to land, and then toss a couple of hand grenades. Boom goes most of the Nazis. Then boom goes the plane and the generals. At this Dvorak, the lone survivor, sprints back to the Hitlermobile. “There’s been a change of plans, my Fuehrer,” he somewhat unnecessarily explains as he tries to start the car. “We will go to the town and release the gas ourselves.” Again, I’m not sure how knocking out the only town in Mandoras helps to conquer the world. Besides, I thought the Nazis didn’t have the antidote. So how can they release the gas withoutâ€¦oh, never mind.
Unfortunately, the Hitlermobile needs a tune-up. (Boy, you’d expect Germans to keep better care of their cars.) With the starter grinding away, Camino tosses one last grenade, and boom goes their vehicle. As the shock theme from Creature of the Black Lagoon (!) blares across the soundtrack, we see Wax Hitler melting away in the flames. And thus, with the help of three guys and four hand grenades, ends the cheapest ass plan to conquer the world in cinema history. And yes, you might be wondering why this would stop all the other agents across the world from releasing the gas, butâ€¦uh, you should just be quiet now.
Cut to the Day’s inn. (Sorry.) They’re wondering where Suzanne is, as they’re ready to head back to the States. The phone rings, and it’s her. Her family is shocked to learn that she’s calling from Camino’s bedroom, although, come on, Suzanne’s clearly a bit of a slut. But ha ha it’s OK, because they’ve gotten married. Or at least it’s OK for the majority of the viewers in 1963 who weren’t getting heartburn at the idea of Anglo Suzanne marrying a Hispanic guy. Anyway, she hands up and heads over to the bed, as an expectant Camino nervously looks on. Oh la la!
Coleman, Alaniz and El Presidente leave to get a drink, leaving Phil and KC the opportunity for some sparking of their own. They embrace, with this little exchange the result:
Saucy KC: “How about changing your name, Mr. Day?
Phil: “Like, uh, what did you have in mind, Mrs. Day?”
Saucy KC: “Like, uhm, what comes after Day?”
Phil, moving in for some sugar: “Oh?”
And so we end as we began. Incomprehensibly.
They Saved Hitler’s Cast:
As often is true with these weird B-Movies, the people involved with our subject had wide-ranging and often-eccentric film careers. I don’t have any info on the folks appearing in the 1968 inserts, although I’d be glad to hear any. Instead, this will focus on those involved in the 1963 Madmen of Mandoras version.
Director David Bradley had the sort of career that bewilders me. Basically he’d do a movie, disappear for some years, and then get another assignment. His biggest claim to fame regards his filming of a stage production of Peer Gynt in 1941. The star of which, in his first screen appearance, was Charlton Heston. Heston also appeared in Bradley’s next screen venture, a film of Julius Caesar made nine years later. Bradley himself played Brutus, while Heston assayed Marc Anthony, a role he also played in a rather more prestigious 1970 film version starring Jason Robards and John Gielgud.
Bradley made a modest thriller in 1952 starring Nancy Reagan, and then typically fell of the map for six years. Then he returned with a Juvenile Delinquent movie entitled Dragstrip Riot. Here he worked with such B-Movie icons as Gary Clarke, Connie Stevens and Fay Wray (!). In 1960 he helmed his first sci-fi flick, Twelve to the Moon, an ambitious but rather goofy sounding picture that was featured on Mystery Science Theater 3000. Three years later Bradley made his last film, Madmen of Mandoras.
On to the cast. The two leads, Walter Stocker and Audrey Claire (Phil and KC), had spotty and rather uninteresting careers. As we head down the list, though, things get a little more interesting:
Carlos Rivas (Teo/Camino) had a long career, appearing in films intermittently up until 2000. He had small roles in some real movies, like True Grit and The King and I, but was more likely to appear in stuff like Beast of Hollow Mountain and Black Scorpion – in which, like here, he acts as second male lead to an Anglo actor – and the awful Doc Savage – Man of Bronze.
John Holland (Prof. Coleman) had a career spanning decades, often in the kind of small roles that remained uncredited on the screen. In this latter capacity he appeared in films ranging from to The Oscar to My Fair Lady (!). He had a bit part in Chinatown and, late in his career, appeared in a couple of Battlestar Galactica episodes. He also had parts in a 1937 version of Dick Tracy, as well as the 1990 Warren Beatty remake. Other films he appeared in include My Gun is Quick, a cheapie Mike Hammer movie; Ocean’s Eleven and an uncredited turn in 1942′s Invisible Agent, another sci-fi film about a fight against the Nazis.
Scott Peters (David) has more than a couple of sci-fi titles under his belt, including Invasion of the Saucer Men, The Amazing Colossal Man, Attack of the Puppet People, Cape Canaveral Monsters and the rather better Panic in the Year Zero. He also had an uncredited part as Dillinger in The FBI Story, getting shot down by agent Jimmy Stewart. He played Pat Chambers in another Mike Hammer film, The Girl Hunters, which will shortly be examined on our site in its very own nugget. Mr. Peters ended his career with a supporting role on TV’s Get Christie Love.
Keith Dahle (Tom Sharon) never acted again, perhaps because he met a Texan who saw this film and was murdered.
Nestor Paiva (Alaniz) had a long career, appearing in over 160 films. His most prominent role was as the boat captain in Creature From the Black Lagoon. He appeared in numerous Bob Hope vehicles, in Abbott & Costello’s superior Hold That Ghost, and, starting with 1949′s Mighty Joe Young, in many sci-fi movies. These include Tarantula, Revenge of the Creature, The Mole People, The Three Stooges in Orbit and Jesse James Meets Frankenstein’s Daughter. Apparently inevitably, Mr. Paiva also had a role in I, The Jury, the first Mike Hammer movie.
Bill Freed, who played Hitler, with and without a body, never acted again. His only other film work, in fact, was in writing the screenplay adaptation of Dean Koontz’ Watchers, starring Corey Haim, twenty-five years after appearing here.
The IMBD lists actor Larry Burrell under ‘rest of cast.’ Mr. Burrell supplied the infamous voiceover narration for The Creeping Terror.
And now…the Rest of the Story:
They Saved Hitler’s Brain falls into that odd handful of films with bizarre production histories. For instance, take The Beast of Yucca Flats and Creeping Terror. These are films where the soundtracks were lost and dialog instead replaced (mostly) with notably goofy narration. And there’s Monster-A-Go-Go, where they apparently ran out of money and just ended the film where they were, via a bit of (again) narration that voided the entire premise of the movie up to then.
Our current subject, however, falls into what I refer to as a Frankenstein Monster Picture. By this I mean films that have ‘original’ material added to them later, more or less resulting in a new movie, of sorts. Word has it that Doomsday Machine falls into this category. My very first Bad Movie love, The Curse of Bigfoot, was a definite example of this. A short black and white film released regionally as Teenagers vs. the Thing, it later had an entirely new half-hour opening grafted onto it to pad out the running time. Director Al “Dracula vs. Frankenstein” Adamson, meanwhile, practically made a career out of this sort of thing.
It should be noted that this sort of thing can actually work. Comedy-wise, modern day actor Steve Martin with intercut with footage from old noir flicks in 1986′s Dead Men Don’t Wear Plaid. This allowed him to seemingly act opposite such stars as Humphrey Bogart, Barbara Stanwyck and James Cagney. More famously, the American movie Godzilla intercuts (ironically enough) reporter Steve Martin, played by Raymond Burr, into the events of the Japanese film Gojira. The technique was eventually replicated to somewhat lesser effect in the American cut of Godzilla ’85, with Burr reappearing as the now first name-less ‘Mr.’ Martin. This also allowed a Dr. Pepper machine to play a prominent part in the stateside version.
Here film students from UCLA padded out the film, originally entitled Madmen of Mandoras. This was at the behest of venerable schlock distributor Crown International, who planned to offer the lengthened feature for theatrical and television showings. As with, again, the Frankenstein Monster, the resulting stitch work is rather obvious. The exploits of new actors are initially intermixed with the pre-existing footage. Eventually these new sequences reach their own climax, whereupon we segue back into the remainder of the original film. Making this rather more noticeable than necessary is that the members of the ‘new’ cast sport a look and manner redolent of the Haight-Ashbury youth generation. This provides a sharp contrast to the rather more conservative, Eisenhower ’50s-esque appearance and demeanor of the original actors.