The Brain That Wouldn't Die

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Virginia Leith as "Jan in the Pan" and Jason "Herb" Evers as Dr. Cortner.
"Let me die... please, let me die..."
Jan "in the Pan" Compton

Evil Doctor Bill Cortner is a rule-flouting maverick who has been experimenting with the transplanting of human limbs and organs, and even repairing and reconnecting of nervous system tissue -- much to the displeasure of his traditionalist surgeon father. But Cortner gets a chance to prove he's not been wasting his time when his fiancee Jan is decapitated in a car accident. Cortner quickly uses "neck-pan juice" to keep her head alive while he searches for an attractive body to reattach it to. Jan, however, has her own agenda...

For the Mystery Science Theater 3000 version, please go to the episode recap page.

Tropes used in The Brain That Wouldn't Die include:
  • All Men Are Perverts: At least, according to Doris, the man-hating fashion model Cortner encounters near the end of the film. In her defense, she was hideously scarred after a man attacked her.
    • And Cortner is just interested in her body...
  • Answer Cut

Cortner : Have you got the keys to your car?
[cut to Cortner and Jan driving]

  • Applied Phlebotinum: That strange serum Cortner uses to expedite organ grafting and preservation.
  • Came Back Wrong: Jan
  • Cat Fight: The two strippers argue over who gets Cortner, at which point he walks out (he can't use either of their bodies, because either one would be a witness to the other's disappearance). When the first one complains about the second chasing him off, her retort leads to a wrestling match.
    • Bonus points for the film actually showing a picture of two cats during the fight!
  • Chick Magnet: Cortner attracts women like flies... which isn't a good thing, because as he points out, "I can't be the last man seen with a woman before she's killed!"
  • Death Seeker: You're welcome, Jan. Jeez!
  • Drives Like Crazy: "I've got to hurry."
    • Which gets Jan killed, no less.
  • Evil Laugh: The film ends with one from Jan.
  • Fan Disservice: Doris is possibly the least appealing model ever. Could be intentional, given her view on men (presumably including those photographing her).
  • Fan Nickname: Jan in the Pan. It's even listed as her character name on the film's IMDB page.
  • Fan Service: Lots of shapely ladies in skimpy outfits.
  • Follow the Leader: Decades later, Frankenhooker would be released. Mike actually makes reference to it at one point here.
  • I Hate You Mad Scientist Fiance
  • Impairment Shot: Cortner spikes Doris' drink to sedate her for head-removal. The camera switches to her POV as she staggers around before collapsing.

[Glass smashes]

  • Jumping Off the Slippery Slope: Cortner starts the film abrasive and arrogant, but his stated motivation of saving lives is admirable, and he is trying to restore his girlfriend Jan to a whole body. However, once he starts trawling around seeking a girl to kill for her body, all bets are off.
    • He had been stealing parts from the morgue even before Jan's "death". As Mike says, "That's mildly unethical."
    • Not to mention making the brainless monster in the closet and being the cause of Kurt's gimpy arm.
  • Large Ham: Doris. She projects.
  • Life Imitates Art: Who'd have thought that fifty years after Bill was playing around with the idea of a serum that could allow for complete organ and limb transplants with Jan and his monster, anti-rejection medications have been developed that could allow for things like full facial and double leg transplants? Not to mention nearly every internal at least in real life, The Extremist Was Right.
  • Magic From Technology: Cortner's 'neck juice' somehow gives Jan Psychic Powers.
  • Mix-and-Match Man: The...uh...thing in the closet.
  • Psychic Powers: Jan takes "differently-abled" to a new level.
  • Science Is Bad: Cortner's experiments for transplanting human limbs, organs etc. Long before Jumping Off the Slippery Slope, Cortner saves a man's life during emergency surgery using his "radical" techniques... and is promptly chewed out by another doctor (his own father, at that).
  • Sexophone: "The Web", which plays every time Cortner goes trawling for bodies.
  • Too Dumb to Live: Sure, Cortner, walk up to the closet when you hear the odd knocking. The closet your assistant's blood trail starts at.
  • Ungrateful Bastard: Jan. Cortner brought her back to life. He's going to give her the body of a model, and she won't even have to lift a (proverbial) finger! All she can do is complain, complain, complain! "Oh, this is unnatural! Oooohhhh, I'm a thing of horror! Why won't you let me diiieee!". Gah! Women! I swear...
    • On the other hand, her fiance is out to brutally kill a woman to give her a new body, and she just realized what he did to get to the point he could preserve her life. And if he succeeds at giving her a new body, do you think he'll ever let her leave? If it's a choice between living with that and dying, one can't blame her for picking the latter route.
      • Let's not forget that Jan Came Back Wrong and may be insane in the first place.
  • Unwanted Rescue: Jan really didn't ask to be saved from death.
  • Villain Protagonist: Cortner.
  • Unbidden Resurrection Makeup: Looks like Cortner or his assistant may have some Hidden Depths, 'cause Jan's makeup stays absolutely perfect throughout the several days in which this movie takes place.
  • You Fail Biology Forever: The neck juice may replace the need to breathe, but one still needs lungs to be able to speak. Also, getting your head lopped off and reanimated probably won't make you telepathic. Of course, it's hard to say for sure unless you try it yourself...
    • Amazingly, a head really could live without its body if attached to proper fluids and machinery as seen here. (Warning: possible Nightmare Fuel for dog lovers.) It didn't look like the dog could make any barks, growls or whimpers, though. And it certainly wasn't telepathic.