Today I realized TCM was going to show the 1962 cult (and MST3K) classic “The Brain That Wouldn’t Die” tonight, and spent most of my day rubbing my hands together in the internationally recognized oh-boy-this-is-gonna-be-great fashion.
You can imagine my glee when I realized immediately that the film had been edited. Unless I’m mistaken, there’s an icky icky shot of brain in the opening surgery scene. That was missing. There’s some saucy bits with a couple of dancers later on that was excised, and a little PG gore at the end which explains those very obvious blood streaks on the wall of the basement-bar-laboratory.
Oh wait, that wasn’t glee I was feeling. That was irritation.
Years ago I complained about recording a copy of “Rich and Famous” from TCM which had half of the profanity bleeped out. Someone on rec.arts.movies.past-films swore that TCM didn’t add the bleeps, they simply showed the wrong print of the film which had been partially bleeped for television. Sure, okay, that happens. However, the IMDb specifically lists a 70 minute “TCM print” on the “The Brain That Wouldn’t Die” Runtime entry. So is this an edited-specifically-for-TCM version? If so, why?
Some of the best parts of this movie, the bits that make Dr. Cortner go from “deeply disturbed” to “batshit insane”, were removed, and that’s a damned shame. Considering the parts removed are mild by today’s standards, I’d love to know the reason for showing an edited print.
You know, I thought it looked edited – I hadn’t seen it in donkey’s years since a midnite showing, so the uneasiness I felt was true. TCM is touting these raw ‘B’ cult semi-sleazes, and evidently bowdlerizing ’em, so it seems superfluous at best, and disingenuous at worst. This is sad news.
Weird coinkydink – Virginia Leith, who never really got a chance in H’wood, was the female lead in the original “A Kiss Before Dying” with Robert Wagner; when the vastly inferior re-make surfaced in 1991, they cast Sean Young in that part, and not only is there a physical resemblance, their voices are eerily similar – I can’t tell if it was on purpose or what, but it’s damn strange.
I’ve contacted some of my TCM buddies to try and get you an answer! That doesn’t sound like them! They are good! I’ve seen a number of R-rated movies on there, including Raging Bull with all the dialogue intact… well, we’ll get to the bottom of this!
The problem is that TCM gets their prints from a number of sources. In the case of THE BRAIN THAT WOULDN’T DIE, the film is in the public domain, and therefore subject to any Tom, Dick or Harry putting it out.
Let me preface this by saying that there are actually THREE versions of the film, and various sub-versions that make tracking down the full-length film confusing.
1) The standard AIP print that has the gore, striptease and amputation footage.
2) The television prints which were cut down (obviously the one you saw)
3) An unreleased version made solely for the shady investors involved that also contains nudity (topless women at the strip club). MGM/UA, who acquired the AIP collection, has this version in their library.
There ARE variations on the original version, most notably in the audio. One of the gore versions (which the director Joseph Green had a 16mm print of) has a line that’s cut from the general prints of Kurt, the handicapped assistant, screaming in agony “NOT MY GOOD ARM!” as his good arm is ripped from its socket. A friend of mine had borrowed this print when he knew Green in the ’80s and had it transferred.
The print that circulated for years and was seen most on television was the second print, the censored one. In the early ’90s, someone (possibly Rhino) acquired a 35mm of the AIP version and did a nice transfer of it, which was subsequently what was used on Mystery Science Theater 3000. Because of the way the PD market works, the best print out there gets duped by everyone and therefore, this version quickly overshadowed the older, television cut.
Why did TCM run the TV print? Most likely, because they bought it as part of a package of public domain material from a company that didn’t upgrade their transfer by stealing from others. It was NOT because TCM cut the film, which is never the case. It just happens that sometimes they pull the wrong master off the shelves.
J, I understand and I have indeed heard that explanation before about other films. As I said in my post, mistakes happen.
My curiosity was piqued when I saw the IMDb had a specifically listed “TCM print” which made me wonder if this was not the edited-for-tv print but instead a specific-to-TCM print.
The PD version that seems to be most available is what you called the “standard AIP” version. It’s the version I have on one of those 50-movie sets, at any rate. The print TCM showed is certainly in much nicer condition.
What irritated me even more than the cuts was that there was no lucid discussion of why the film is fascinating and endlessly re-watchable. I thought Landis came across foolishly, and I was disappointed that Osborne didn’t ask any questions that might have sparked an illuminating conversation, which he does so well about other films. And speaking of the cuts, they ruined the rhythm of the film; without the full scene in the stripclub, the long dialogue between Kurt and Jan felt more windy than usual.
A friend alerted me to the fact that the first VHS release of the film (which was the censored version) was on WB Home Video. So undoubtedly, they had no realization that the film was cut and pulled their own master.
Thanks Jeremy, that explains what the IMDb calls the “TCM version”.
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