Thursday, August 24, 2017

THE MAN WITH TWO BRAINS (1983) (Warner Archive Blu-ray Review)


Label: Warner Archive
Region Code: Region-FREE
Duration: 90 Minutes 
Video: 1080P HD Widescreen (1.78:1) 
Audio: English DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 Mono with Optional English SDH Subtitles
Director: Carl Reiner 
Cast: Steve Martin, Kathleen Turner, David Warner, Paul Benedict, Richard Brestoff, James Cromwell, George Furth, Peter Hobbs

In this zany 80s sci-fi comedy we have noted brain surgeon Dr. Michael Hfuhruhurr (Steve Martin, The Jerk), an arrogant but sort of dim doctor, with a promising career. He's developed a revolutionary procedure called "cranial, screw-top brain surgery", which is quite literally screwing off the top of some one's head to reveal the brain. He's recently widowed and still grieving, but when he runs into (literally, with his car) gorgeous blond bombshell Dolores Benedict (Kathleen Turner, Serial Mom), his thoughts turn to love. After he saves her life in surgery she seduces him with a bit of boner-rific finger-sucking and the two are quickly married, with Hfuhruhurr not realizing his gorgeous new bride is a gold digging femme fatale intent on killing him and inheriting his fortune. 

Dolores pulls away from his sexual advances in favor of banging the hired help around the house, this drives Hfuhruhurr absolutely crazy, the guy becomes a frustrated walking erection with his wife feigning illness and headaches to avoid consummating their marriage. When Hfuhruhurr and his wife take a working honeymoon to Vienna so he can attend a medical conference he meets another brain surgeon and amaetuer mad scientist, Dr. Alfred Necessiter (David Warner, Waxwork), who shows him his cool brain collection back at his Gothic-castle decorated condo, with paper thin walls. The brains are all kept on neon-colored liquid filled jars, the liquid a fluid developed by Necessiter which keeps the disembodied brains alive. Hfuhruhurr discovers he's telepathically able to communicate with one of the brains, a woman with an equally odd name, Anne Uumellmahaye (voiced by an uncredited Sissy Spacek, Carrie). Hfuhruhurr eventually realizes what a gold-digging bitch Dolores is and begins to fall in-love with the disembodied brain of the very sweet Anne, but what to do about her lack of a body? 

Luckily, Necessiter has developed a process by which he can transfer the thoughts and data of the brains into another body, but so far he has only been able to transfer brains into the body of a gorilla. This sets the doc on a murderous trip through the city, looking for a prostitute to kill in which to place his newfound love's disembodied brain into, eyeballing numerous sex-pots,sizing them up, which eventually bringing him the high-voiced American hooker Fran (Randi Brooks), and much hilarity ensues. 

This movie is so damn quotable, which is a credit to the writing team and Martin's delivery, after thinking on the possibility of transferring Anne's brain into a gorilla for a bit too long Hfuhruhurr responds "I couldn't fuck a gorilla!", another scene has Necessiter's butler (Paul Benedict, of TV's The Jeffersons) asking if the doctor's wife is ill, to which he responds, "She's not ill, she's a cheap, vulgar slut", and then there's my hands-down favorite line, when the doc tosses his cheating wife into a puddle of mud, declaring "into the mud, scum queen!", which is a line I repeated ad nauseum for weeks after watching the film as a kid.  

The movie certainly winks at the audience, riffing on retro sci-fi shlockers like Donovan's Brain (1953) and The Brain That Wouldn't Die (1962), loaded with fun non-sequiturs and goofy humor, this is a nutty film that is light hearted and meant to be taken lightly. It's a spoof, the humor is silly, but the writing is crafty and well-executed. This is my favorite Steve Martin movie, even more so than The Jerk (1979), which he also made with director Carl Reiner (Summer Rental). There's loads gags to guffaw over, like Steve Martin's suction-cup hands, or a recurring gag about a cat in the surgery room, goofy stuff but I loved every minute of it, even when some of the puns don't exactly land they're still a blast.  

Martin is wonderful, landing nearly all the gags and jokes with the deftness of a comic in his prime, and for her part Turner is having a blast riffing on her sex-pot character from Body Heat (1981), she's a fantastic conniving bitch. Horror fans should keep an eye out for a brief appearance from a pre Re-Animator (1986) Jeffrey Combs as a doc caught shaving pubes! 70s TV personality Merv Griffin also shows up as a serial killer which proves pivotal in the happenings of the movie, though I think his identity might be lost on kids today, my kids certainly had no idea who he was or why his identity would be funny, it's probably the one gag too dated to land nowadays. 

This movie has aged pretty well otherwise, it's not reliant on the dated special effects, most of the references aren't time-stamped, it's just a goofy sci-fi comedy, a fun spoof on brain-schlock cinema and mad scientists, and everyone is up to the comic task, bringing their a-game to the movie. I've always thought Martin was best as a "wild and crazy guy", once he started doing more mature, grown-up stuff I sort of lost interest, this is my preferred Steve Martin. 

I remember watching this one on late night cable when I was way too young, not even 11 years old yet. I tuned in because I thought it was a sci-fi horror movie, and at the time I felt it sort of raunchy, at least it was for me at the time, when the hooker Fran (Randi Brooks, Terror Vision) shows up it about sent my adolescent boner through the roof when she disrobes. It felt dirty, I had my hand on the cable box power button the whole time in case my parents happened to wake up and walked into the room so I could snap it off in a heartbeat. Watching it now it's far less racy, and if my dad had caught me he probably would have watched it with me, ha ha. Something I caught this time around was not just what movies this was riffing on but what an influence this must have been on the Frank Henenlotter cult-classic  Frankenhooker (1990), if you love that sort of silly sci-fi fun go back and check this one out!  

Audio/Video: The Man with Two Brains (1983) arrives on Blu-ray from the cinema lovers at the Warner Archive with a brand new 2017 remaster, presented in the original 1.78:1 widescreen aspect ratio in 1080p HD! Whatever the source of the new HD master, it looks wonderful, it would not surprise me if this is straight from the OCN. Near flawless with a bare minimum of white speckling present, the grain is tightly managed, the neon colors are vibrant and fine detail is abundant. The image is a bit brighter than I remember the DVD being, which is a good thing, colors pop nicely, this is just a wonderful presentation. The lone audio option on the disc is an English DTS-HD MA 2.0 Mono track with optional English subtitles. Dialogue is crisp and clean, the goofy, but apt, sci-fi synth score from composer Joel Goldsmith (Laser Blast) sounds terrific, too. 

The only extra on the disc is an HD Widescreen theatrical trailer for the movie, looking a bit rough around the edges, but there it is. I do think it's too bad we didn't get a commentary from Reiner and Martin, I love this film a bunch, and I am not alone, and I would have loved to hear their recollections of making and writing the movie. 

Special Features: 
- Original Theatrical Trailer (2 min) HD

I am pleased as punch that Warner Archive saw fit to Blu this 80's comedy classic, I think it's Steve Martin's funniest film, a sweet slice of 80s screwball comedy loaded with awful-awesome puns, farce and visual gags that are ripe for a revisit. The Man With Two Brains has never looked better on home video, a top notch A/V presentation from the Warner Archive!