Monday, 20 October 2014

They Saved Hitler's Brain (1969)

3.5 out of 10
According to the official version of history, with the Red Army advancing in Berlin, Adolf Hitler shot himself in his Führerbunker on the 30th of April 1945. However, this is, apparently, not correct. Because, in truth, what actually happened was that, just before the fall of Berlin, surgeons removed Hitler's head. The disembodied, re-animated Führernoggin was then, in a case of choosing his brains over his Braun, ensconced, still alive, in a jar. This allowed what remained of the former Reich Chancellor to be smuggled out of the country. Then he would be able to plot his revenge from the fictional South American state of Mandoras. So, who makes this claim? Former Julius Caesar director, David Bradley, that's who! Because, this is precisely what his film, Madmen of Mandoras, was about: a disembodied head of Hitler planning a second shot at world domination. Anyhow, it is the sixties. So that's precisely where our story begins: two decades or so, give or take, after the second world war. An American scientist named Professor John Coleman, who is played by minor character actor John Holland, has developed an antidote to a deadly poison gas that is apparently, and somewhat unimaginatively, known as G-gas. However, it turns out that this gas is central to the plans of a band of exiled Nazis, and Hitler's head. These angels of death plan to overthrow the world, while their beloved Führer barks his orders at them from within his jar. So, mankind is in real trouble here. Because, unfortunately, our scientist hasn't bothered to inform anyone of the findings from his research. Worse still, the professor only goes and gets himself kidnapped along with his cute, but daft, beatnikbabble spouting daughter. She is played by Patty star Dani Lynne, by the way, and the pair find themselves whisked off to the fictional South American state. Luckily, for professor and daughter, help is at hand. This is because his other, more coherent, daughter and his son-in-law, who works for C.I.D, are on the case. The pair, who are played by Audrey Caire and Walter Stocker, are coming to the rescue! Despite its unashamedly oddball premise, none of this turns out to be nearly as exciting as it sounds. Sure, as would be expected, there is a limited amount of fun to be had. Especially with the sight of a jibbing Hitler, in a jar, shouting stuff. But, sadly, “Schnell! Schnell!” proves to be his only dialogue of note. So, as a result, we are left only with a chance to watch the Führer twitching, grimacing and riding around, in his jar, on the back seat of a car. It is a shame but, despite the title, the mustachioed one, who is played by Bill Freed, only has a few minutes of screen time. Even this is not really used to that great an effect. As a result, Madmen of Mandoras turns out to be nowhere near as much fun to watch as the excellent and snarky “Jan in the Pan” re-animated head from The Brain That Wouldn't Die. Then again, those who are into cult cinema may, possibly, get something or other from the film. Fans of Batman may even find it fun to spot some filming locations from the television series. However, take away the cameo from Hitler's head and all that is left is little more than a slightly dull, occasionally confusing, run-of-the-mill political thriller. Of course, not everyone agrees. Indeed a company called Paragon Films would pick up this Crown International feature sometime in the latter half of the sixties. Furthermore, not only did Paragon seem to believe that the film would have a receptive television audience, but they would underscore this misplaced faith by getting some students to shoot a further half an hour, or so, of footage. Apparently, this was in order to produce something more appropriately timed for a two hour TV slot. Anyhow, the resulting nonsense would be called, drum roll please... They Saved Hitler's Brain. Unfortunately, despite one of the coolest titles in the history of filmdom, this version, that would be released in 1969, is pretty much unwatchable. Indeed, They Saved Hitler's Brain underscores the point that having a good title is not the same as having a good movie. You see, not only does the resulting mess make little sense but, an inappropriately funky soundtrack, variable film stock and the changes of hairstyles and clothes all serve to betray the fact that this is really nothing more than two distinct films, from two different eras, bolted together. Thankfully however, within half an hour, all the characters from the additional footage are dead. So, with this opening storyline left hanging, it feels as if someone has switched channel mid-movie. Thus, They Saved Hitler's Brain reverts, without much in the way of an explanation, to Madmen of Mandoras. Anyhow, They Saved Hitler's Brain may not be great, but at least, during the second half of the film, there is some decent, and stylish, Noir-style lighting and cinematography going on. This is due, of course, to Stanley Cortez of Night of the Hunter fame. Indeed, considering that this is, pretty much, balls deep into B-movie territory, the film, at least, is incredibly stylish at times. So, here, the film honestly looks far better than the story really deserves.