Choosing movies from Nitehawk’s VHS Vault can be uncannily like spending too much time in a video store. When we choose our tapes, most of the time we go with personal favorites or by a film’s reputation, but sometimes nothing clicks and all that’s left to do is close your eyes, roll the dice and see where your hand leads you.
This week it fell on The Brain, a campy 80’s monster movie that’s never seen the light of DVD, and—to borrow a phrase from Mystery Science Theater—has the bacony stench of Canada all over it.
When a young troublemaker breaks bad for the last time, his family sends him packing to a psychiatric institute that also doubles as the studio for a Doctor Oz-like television personality who’s actually an alien bending the town to his will via the psychic waves of his pet giant, killer brain.
There’s plenty to like in this off-the-wall oddity. Re-Animator vet David Gale hams it up as the evil doctor who delights in his brain’s appetite for attractive assistants; the doc’s enforcer is an overweight, bearded schlub whose constant, breathless chase scenes make you concerned for the well being of his heart; and, of course, there’s the healthy supply of pointless nudity and graphic violence.
But above the fat man running and the gory deaths is the brain itself. Starting off at about the size of a turkey, the brain continues to grow with each victim it consumes, culminating with it being the size of a Buick and crashing around a warehouse chomping on whoever stumbles into its mouth.
The puppet itself is huge and unruly, stuck with a hilarious grin permanently plastered on its face. The only thing that actually moves on the brain are its teeth. The things just sort of move in-and-out as it looks on through lifeless, unblinking eyes. It’s also never quite clear how the brain gets around. Does it float on its big spinal cord? Does it slither like a slug? Or is it just wheeling around on a pallet?
Yeah, that one sounds right.
Perhaps The Brain’s strangest aspect, though, is its strong anti-television streak. Like a scolding parent, the movie relentlessly reminds the viewer that watching television rots the brain, destroys independent thinking and makes you into a slave to advertisers or whatever huckster has control of the airwaves at any given moment. The movie’s point of view isn’t off base—though it is expressed far too on-the-nose, the doctor’s show is called “Independent Thinkers,” har har—it just seems odd for such an otherwise trashy movie full of tits and gore and aliens to take a holier-than-thou intellectual stance on anything.
What do you think they play on brain rotting television at one-in-the-morning?
It looks an awful lot like The Brain.
Come see The Brain on glorious VHS for FREE in Nitehawk’s Lobby Bar on Monday, April 30