Sunday, October 4, 2009

The Man Without A Body (1957)

Self-made millionaire Karl Brussard (George Coulouris and his thick accent) is in a bit of a bind. His physician has diagnosed him with an inoperable brain tumor, which puts the immortality he so obviously craves quite out of reach.

Brussard's only hope is Dr. Merritt (Robert Hutton and his single facial expression), a specialist in weird medicine. He and Brussard come to a capital conclusion to Brussard's problem: the man just needs a new brain! Merritt has been quite successful in keeping bodyless body parts alive, you see, and since there's no difference between that and stitching a new head onto Brussard's body, the millionaire only needs to deliver a fine new head to replace his over-used old one. It won't surely make any difference that the brain in the head has nothing whatsoever to do with Brussard.

Merritt also explains that human cells don't deteriorate when a dead body is not buried but laid to rest in a crypt. This information and an educational visit to Madame Tussaud's make it obvious to Brussard - he needs to steal the brain of Nostradamus, the highest developed intellect of his time!

Grave robbery is cheap and easy, and soon Merritt is busy bringing old Nostradamus' (Michael Golden and his ratty beard) head to life again. Brussard's hopes have to take some heavy hits, though.

When Merritt learns whose head he is supposed to transplant, he seems to prefer his nice and friendly conversations with the disembodied head to the work Brussard wants done.

The head itself is also quite uncooperative and doesn't want to let itself being talked into becoming Brussard. Yes, that's the way mind transplantation works - you need to talk a head into adopting your personality.

Then there's also some would-be noirish business with Merritt's assistant Lew (Sheldon Lawrence and his single facial expression) falling in love with Brussard's trophy girlfriend Odette (Nadja Regin and her complete lack of acting competence) and a murder plan.

At least we can all learn something from Brussard's final problem and mistake: don't ever take stock market advice from a disembodied head whose brain you want to steal.

Let's start with the bad news about Billy Wilder's less competent brother W. Lee Wilder's and Charles Saunder's The Man Without A Body. The film's production values are terribly low, two directors aren't better than one, the script is as far from science as the creationist I hide and torture in my cellar and none of the actors is able or willing to act at all.

That's the sort of bad news one expects from brain and head movies, of course. I am glad to report that apart from the whole movie being an utter catastrophe, it's quite a fun time.

Everything about it is so utterly bonkers and so completely divorced from the way cause and effect work in the world most people I know have to exist in that watching it is like a nice holiday in the brain of a shoddy bad movie writer. A shoddy bad movie writer who isn't even competent enough to hit all the required genre buttons no less - poor Merritt isn't even a real mad scientist - he lacks any sense of drama, the noir sub-plot is quite pointless, and the final monster "rampage" (in a brain/head movie, oh yes!) had me in tears of laughter for its utter lack of a credible monster and its unwillingness to be more exciting than a Sunday stroll.

The Man Without A Body truly is an absolute mess of a movie, but it is so silly and incompetently made that it's hard not to love it at least a little.



Anonymous said...

Ah, I saw this one, and it was quite amusing indeed!

houseinrlyeh said...

It's hard to go wrong with movies about disembodied brains and heads.