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Sampo & Erhardt

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Visit our archives of the MST3K pages previously hosted by the Sci-Fi Channel's SCIFI.COM.

Goodbye Sci-Fi

Mike Nelson, Kevin Murphy and Bill Corbett reflect on MST3K's final broadcast.

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Episode guide: 513- The Brain that Wouldn’t Die

Movie: (1959) When a doctor’s fiancee is decapitated, he keeps her head alive in his laboratory and tries to find her a new body.

First shown: 10/30/93
Opening: Mike’s been in training for his first movie
Invention exchange: Mike presents the gutter-bumber-shoot, The Mads demonstrate the dream buster
Host segment 1: Mike tries to get control of the SOL, but nothing doing (that’s not cheese!)
Host segment 2: M&tB first project together: designing hats for Jan in the pan
Host segment 3: Mike, Crow and Tom discuss the movie’s hateful message; Mike shares an embarrassing moment from his past
End: A visit from Jan on the Hexfield; Dr. F. is inspired!
Stinger: “Who’s to tell me to blow if I don’t want to?”
1 Star2 Stars3 Stars4 Stars5 Stars (198 votes, average: 4.47 out of 5)


• A fair-to-good first show for Mike. Horrible movie, great riffing, but many many changes to the forumla.
• This was one of the two episodes that was first released as singles by Rhino, in April of 2000, their first two MST3K titles.
• I spent most of October 30, 1993, in Edina, Minn., at the home of a very nice lady named Debbie Tobin, with a lot of oddly dressed people I’d never met before. Thereby hangs a tale.
For the previous two Thanksgivings, Comedy Central had paid Best Brains to create short film segments — called “bumpers” in showbiz lingo — that would link one episode to another in its annual “turkey day” marathon. But in 1993, for reasons that will never be understood, I guess, Comedy Central asked BBI to make the bumpers for free. BBI told CC to pound sand. So, CC was forced to look elsewhere for its bumpers.
Now, at the same time, Debbie, who was a regular poster at MST3K bulletin board on the Prodigy online service, had announced she was throwing a Halloween costume party on the day of Mike’s first episode. Somebody at CC saw her posting and asked her if they could send a video crew to film it and make bumpers out of the footage. Debbie agreed, and was (wisely) told to keep it a secret, and most of the people who showed up had no idea the camera crew was going to be there.
Thus on the appointed day I, and about 35 jolly people from all over the country, were in Debbie’s house, in costume. It was the first time Erhardt and I had met, and there were a couple of other people there who I’m still good friends with all these years later.
(And let me just take time out from this story to say that if you were there at MSTieween, please drop me a line and let me know how your life is going.)
We managed to finish up filming just before 5 p.m. local time, when this episode was to debut. Shouting “movie sign!!” we rushed to the basement and the den, where TVs were set up so we could watch. And that’s where I was when the Mike era began.
• There is a LOT to take in here, right off the bat. New theme song lyrics, a new theme song singer, a new robot roll call and a new door sequence, all in about two minutes. It was breathtaking at the time.
• One of the new doors in the door sequence looks vaguely like a pizza. This was a cute reference to the fact that many fans claimed that one of the Joel-era doors made a sound that sounded like somebody saying “pizza!”
• According to BBI, Gypsy says “I’m not ready!” It sounds to me like “Hi from me!”
• Crow and Tom have been “training” Mike using “The Beast of Yucca Flat” [sic]. I think this is only the second time they mention a movie that they would later riff — the other one being “Marooned.” There’s also a mention of “Night of the Lepus,” a movie they SHOULD have riffed.
• Is Tom wearing a Temple University cap? Sure looks like their “T.”
• Right out of the box, Mike is intentionally different from Joel. In an interview that I did with Jim at about this time, he said (I’m paraphrasing from memory here) “I never quite understood why Joel’s character is so polite and deferential to the Mads. They trapped him in space! Why is he being nice to them?” Thus we have an immediately rebellious Mike, who scoffs at being expected to “hop to.” Radical!
• I love the use of the “Flint phone” sound effect with Dr. F’s invention. The world would later hear it in the Austin Powers movies too.
• Another great “Mike as newbie” moment comes when moviesign arrives — and Mike has no idea what to do. He then fails to carry a humiliated Tom into the theater. Crow explicitly mentions the air grate.
• Segment 1 is our first real taste of interaction between Mike and bots. They seem to be getting along okay, but it’s clear the bots have abandonment issues. Can bots have “issues”?
• I gotta say that this movie is pretty harsh for Mike’s first experiment. It is easily the most misogynist movie they ever did (and that’s saying something). The scene where our “hero” goes trolling for bodies is particularly dark.
• Callback: “Back to the ‘Unearthly’ set.” “Mitchell!!”
• At one point, Tom says: “Not with RADAR!” Huh? We won’t get “Radar Secret Service” for seven episodes. Is it a reference to that? Had the Brains already seen it as part of the selection process? Maybe that was a riff that came from Frank, the previewer.
• Segment 2 is fun, a bit a throwback to season 3, when Joel was forever giving the bots assignments and projects.
• Mike is still wearing the lazy susan hat when when they re-enter the theater.
• Tom does a little Flash Bazbo.
• Segment 3 seizes another opportunity have fun at the new guy’s expense, but also has some wonderful assessments of the movie.
• Great running gag in this one: AHH! I’M IN ANOTHER DIMENSION!!
• Cast and crew roundup: Just one item this time: Makeup man George Fiala also worked on “Santa Claus Conquers the Martians.”
• CreditsWatch: Joel’s name comes off the “art direction” credit, leaving Trace and Jef. Skyline Displays Inc. (the company that offered them the space that would become their studio) comes out of the “Special Thanks” credit, as does the credit for Mark Gilbertson. The “Executive Producers: Jim Mallon, Joel Hodgson” credit comes out completely. David Sussman is added to the list of writers for the rest of the season. Host segments directed by Trace Beaulieu. For the rest of the season, the theme song credit says: lyrics: “The Brains.” Jim Mallon is back in the list of contributing writers (his name was removed in last week’s credits) and will be for the rest of the season. And of course that’s Mary Jo, hilariously depicting Jan in the pan.
• Fave riff: “Hahahaha…have you seen Frankenhooker?” Honorable mentions: “…with a Milwaukee Sawzall.” “If Jack Ruby owned a Denny’s.”

174 Replies to “Episode guide: 513- The Brain that Wouldn’t Die”

  1. touches no one's life, then leaves says:

    #141: When you think about it, the plot to this movie is actually really grisly.

    Yes. That’s right. When You Think About It…


  2. Lisa H. says:

    Sure are a lot of mondegreens in the bot lines in the opening, huh?


  3. touches no one's life, then leaves says:

    In case anyone else was wondering:

    “A mondegreen /?m?nd??ri?n/ is a mishearing or misinterpretation of a phrase as a result of near-homophony, in a way that gives it a new meaning.”

    Thank you, Wikipedia


    Oddly enough, it never until today occurred to me to wonder if Joseph Green directed any other films. I mean, if this was his first effort, well, he should have started directing long ago, think what he could have accomplished.

    Even oddlier enougher, after 1962’s “Brain,” he didn’t direct again until 1986’s “The Perils of P.K.” (I mean, per the IMDB) Twenty-four years between films? What’s THAT all about?

    “P.K., a former movie star now reduced to working as a stripper in a Las Vegas nightclub, is desperate for a comeback, and thinks she could make one if she could only get a big-name star to appear in a movie with her. She relates all these problems, and many of her fantasies, to her psychiatrist, and also approaches several entertainers working in Las Vegas to try to get them to help make her dream come true.”

    Doesn’t sound nearly as disturbing as “Brain.” Guess he had just the one in him.

    He was also producer and post-production director of the English version of 1964’s “Hakujitsumu,” re-titled “Day-Dream.”

    “While under sedation in a dentist’s office, a young art student has sex fantasies about naked women, vampires and a beautiful patient he saw in the office.”

    Uh, hey, doc, holdin’ any more of that stuff?


  4. littleaimishboy says:

    touches no one’s life, then leaves:
    In case anyone else was wondering:

    “A mondegreen /?m?nd??ri?n/ is a mishearing or misinterpretation of a phrase as a result of near-homophony, in a way that gives it a new meaning.”

    Thank you, Wikipedia


    The ants are my friends, they’re blowin’ in the wind …


  5. thequietman says:

    “And no re-animating anything while I’m gone, young man!”

    The all-time classic that was ‘Mitchell’ would have been a hard act to follow for any movie and any new host. To me this episode doesn’t really pick up steam until the good doctor starts cruising in his snazzy 1959 Ford. From then on to the end it was pretty good, but we all know there would be more hilarity to come.

    I wonder how many lollipops Dr. F had to crack over Frank’s head before they had a good take…


  6. Dave3k says:

    I, personally, find this a capital episode.In his first outing as host, Mike takes this movie head-on.

    But in the hope of heading off any potential conflict here, let me just say: I know that severing ties with Joel as the host surely was traumatic for many of us, but I sure hope no one loses their head in this discussion.

    So THAT’S why they chose this episode. An apt metaphor for the transition from one host to the next.


  7. Bellerian T. Robot says:

    Monster a Go-Go has more scenes than this movie… That must mean something.
    I actually like the premise. If one could get Chuck Palahniuk to write it and the love-child of Hitchcock, Kubrik and Romero to direct it, it could be at least acceptable, I guess…
    I also think that the doctor was this close in having Eraserhead hair.


  8. Be Right There says:

    This is the second time in three episodes where one of the Mads hits the other with a giant lollipop. Guess Dr. F wanted some revenge for Gunslinger


  9. Cornjob says:

    Having not seen Mitchel yet and not knowing about the host change my first response was of course, “Who the Hell is this guy!?”

    After I got over that I enjoyed the episode a lot. “Wildly fluctuating nothing” and the trapped in another dimension jokes are some of my all time favorites.


  10. touches no one's life, then leaves says:


    I think it means that “Monster A-Go-Go” was made over a longer period of time and available settings came and went.

    I remain bemused that so many people found that ending incomprehensible. Oh well.


    No one can say that the Brains are ones to lose their heads…

    “The Brains are one to lose their heads!”


  11. Ro-man says:

    Dave3k: So THAT’S why they chose this episode. An apt metaphor for the transition from one host to the next.

    Perhaps… a “clean break”, so to speak.


  12. Ro-man says:

    Ro-man: Click to Edit
    Request Deletion
    (3 minutes and 14 seconds)



  13. Satoris says:

    A very good first outing for Mike. Severed heads, one-armed assistants, the thing in the closet. Lots to riff on here and they don’t miss a thing. I first saw this one on VHS and had no idea at the time that it was Mike’s first episode. Favorite Riff: Contestant no.3 is a lovely girl from Indiana with a severed head. Tom: I’ll take her! I’ll take her!


  14. Ray Dunakin says:

    I love this episode! Definitely high on my list of favorites! The movie is certainly dark (in every sense of the word) but it’s at least comprehensible, and provides a lots of riffing fodder. Plus it gave us Jan in the Pan, the most memorable character since Torgo.

    “He’s either going to win the Nobel Prize, or the Heisman trophy!”


  15. Johnny Drama says:

    I’ve got to say, this one has grown on my over the years. The innocence of the early Mike era, can’t be beat.
    October, 1993. What a month. Joel had left, Mike had started, and just 12 days prior the Brain airing, I saw Nirvana in concert. Then, the day after that, Pearl Jam’s Vs came out. Crazy times.
    Then I watched this episode the night it premiered, and it didn’t disappoint. Why, there was even a Kurt Cobain reference in it.
    Yes, this best “Brain” will not die! Long live MST3K!


  16. G R Robertson says:

    Watch this one just the other week (bit alarmed as the unMstied side of the disc had gone cloudy but it played okay). They’d obviously done a bit of research as they mentioned tissue rejection and the monster at the end didn’t look too bad. Other than that it was rubbish !! Worth checking out the trailer.


  17. Bat Materson says:

    I have to say I was a little nervous before I saw this episode for the first time. A new host/primary actor didn’t always work out. However, Mike’s training regimen bits were great and by the time we got to his first riff as host (These people will be discussing issues that are teens’ issues) I knew the show was in capable hands.


  18. touches no one's life, then leaves says:

    The title’s a bit of a misnomer, isn’t it? Upon being reduced to a head/brain, Jan very gladly WOULD have died, it’s just that no one was willing to oblige her (not entirely unlike how The Thing That COULDN’T Die turned out to in fact be able to die quite thoroughly). Considering how not-onboard Kurt seemed to be about the whole tampering-in-God’s-domain thing, Jan might have been able to persuade *him* to kill her if she’d just been a bit nicer to him. Bill comes back and finds her dead, well, it’s not like he’d ever simmered a head in a pan of neck juice before, how would he know Jan didn’t just die on her own because he didn’t think to stir the sauce OSLT? Oh well.

    Crow: “Hey, what kind of town is this, I want to move there RIGHT NOW!”

    According to the IMDB, the filming location was Tarrytown, New York, so I guess that’s what town it is. Yes, Scenic Tarrytown. Come and…Tarry.

    Coincidentally, Tarrytown was also one of the filming locations for the Sleepy Hollow TV series. Think About It.

    The reference to “Frankenhooker” raises the question of why Bill didn’t just take the path of least resistance and abduct a prostitute. When a prostitute vanishes there is, tragically, little if any interest. Meanwhile, if Doris had disappeared, Donna and her friend would probably remember talking to Bill about her and he’d end up at the top of the suspect list, anyway.

    Donna’s first conversation with Bill gives the definite impression that she doesn’t know he’s engaged (waiting for a call, “bedside manner”). Bill certainly seems to think she has a very high opinion of herself; when she mentions “beautiful bodies” (first the pageant, then Doris) he just assumes that she’s talking about herself, both times. What’s *that* about?

    Although Kurt’s notion that Jan’s spirit/identity/what-have-you was in both her brain AND her heart seems kind of, y’know, stupid, Jan did indeed get a bit more “heartless” over time, so there’s that, I guess. Although, while she was willing to [get Dead-Pieces-Guy to] kill her fiance (who, fair is fair, was going to a lot of trouble to try to restore her as best he could) to save the life of Doris, who was, as noted earlier, a total stranger to her, the fact that she cared whether Doris lived or died in the first place suggests, uh, something.


  19. G R Robertson says:

    Also Jans decapitation is very clean isn’t it, not lopsided at a


  20. Sitting Duck says:

    touches no one’s life, then leaves:
    The reference to “Frankenhooker” raises the question of why Bill didn’t just take the path of least resistance and abduct a prostitute. When a prostitute vanishes there is, tragically, little if any interest. Meanwhile, if Doris had disappeared, Donna and her friend would probably remember talking to Bill about her and he’d end up at the top of the suspect list, anyway.

    Probably he wishes to reduce the possibility of getting the clap.


  21. touches no one's life, then leaves says:

    >>>Probably he wishes to reduce the possibility of getting the clap

    Well, he can resurrect dead people, I doubt that curing a few STDs would take him much time.


  22. Sitting Duck says:

    That assumes that he’s a Renaissance Mad Scientist. His skill set appears to be geared towards surgical techniques. For all we know, his knowledge of pathology could be too minimal.


  23. Lawgiver says:

    Favorite riffs:

    Mike: He’s only mostly dead. (Holy Grail riffs are always great.)
    Crow: Don’t cry over spilled milk and don’t count your chickens before they hatch. I’m outta here.
    Tom: Don’t forget my purse.

    Lots of great body parts puns/riffs.


  24. oh yeah no doubt this is still cool, just wanted to point it out that they are actually


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