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Brain That Wouldn’t Die [cheesy monster movie]

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The Brain That Wouldn't Die (1962) starring Herb Evers, Virginia Leith
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The Brain That Wouldn’t Die (1962) starring Herb Evers, Virginia Leith

The Brain that Wouldn’t Die is affectionately known as “Jan in the pan“. It’s the story of a brilliant, weird, unscrupulous surgeon. He’s a genius at organ transplants … So, when he decapitates his girlfriend in an automobile accident, there’s only one thing to do! He puts her head under his arm like a football and dashes back to his secret lab! Once there, he keeps the disembodied head of Jan alive. In a pan of chemicals. Until he can murder a beautiful woman to transplant her head onto! What could possibly go wrong?


Well, it can safely be said that The Brain that Wouldn’t Die is a weird, but enjoyable, cheesy monster movie. It’s an oddball pastiche of mad scientist, Frankenstein monster, revenge, and lots of pretty girls in tight outfits.

Jan in the pan: Just let me die … (The Brain that Wouldn't Die)
Jan: Just let me die …

Sounds like the kind of movie that MST3K would delight in mocking, you say? You’re absolutely right!

Cast of characters

  • Jason Evers (The Green Berets) as Dr. Bill Cortner. Surgeon, boyfriend, experimental transplant pioneer, monster maker. When does he find time to sleep? Seriously, the mad scientist responsible for all the horrors. He’s been experimenting on Kurt, keeps Jan alive, tries to murder multiple women … And in his spare time, he’s created a Frankenstein-like monster, from a multitude of transplants.
  • Virginia Leith (Black Widow) as Jan Compton. Poor Jan in the pan. Other than poor taste in boyfriends, she’s done nothing to deserve her fate. Decapitated, kept temporarily alive in a pan of chemicals. But, those same chemicals apparently give her telepathic ability. She contacts the monster living in Bill’s closet. She mocks poor Kurt. And with the monster’s help, she gets her revenge …
  • Anthony La Penna as Kurt. Bill’s lab assistant. He’s pretty much forced to work for Bill … If he ever wants his arm repaired and/or replaced. Although multiple transplants have failed so far. A weak-willed character. Jan mocks him, Bill looks down on him, and the monster kills him.
  • Adele Lamont as Doris Powell. A former girlfriend of Bill’s, with a scarred face. A beautiful figure, which is all Bill cares about. He fools her to come to his house, planning to decapitate her and transplant Jan’s head onto her torso. Over Jan’s protests.
  • Bonnie Sharie as blonde stripper. An earlier possible victim of Bill’s.
  • Paula Maurice as brunette stripper. Yet another possible victim. The two get into a cat fight, and Bill slips away.
  • Bruce Brighton as Dr. Cortner. An older, likeable surgeon. A man of ethics. It’s hard to believe that Bill’s his son, frankly.

Editorial review of The Brain That Wouldn’t Die courtesy of

A scientist is driving around with his gorgeous girlfriend and everything’s hunky-dory until he wrecks the car and her head goes flying off. Not to be discouraged, he wraps the decapitated noggin in his jacket and scurries off to his lab, where he keeps the poor woman’s head alive in a developing tray with some coils and tubes running in and out of it. With his girlfriend’s still-conscious cabeza back at the lab, the good doctor drives around shopping for bodies, ogling women who might make likely candidates for reattaching the head.

Finally he finds a model with a gorgeous bod (and leopard print bikini), but a scarred face. He convinces the young woman that he can fix her looks with plastic surgery and convinces her to go back to the lab. Meanwhile, his girlfriend-head (silenced by a strip of duct tape over her mouth) has developed telepathy and a nasty grudge. This movie used to regularly leave late-night TV audiences aghast and scare the bejabbers out of the young’uns. Decades later, it’s an indispensable trash classic, complete with a catfight, a pinhead monster, a deformed assistant, and even a spatter of gore. Make no mistake; this incredible, sleazy gem is a must-see for any self-respecting fans of camp cinema. They just don’t come any better, and they definitely don’t make ’em like that anymore. –Jerry Renshaw

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