Synopsis: Anyone who doesn’t think Steve Martin is one of the funniest fellows on the planet should have his head examined. As The Man With Two Brains, madman Martin is just the guy to do it, Playing Dr. Michael Hfuhruhurr, famed originator of zip-lock, screw-top brain surgery. The good doctor pines for his late wife – but slinky siren Dolores Benedict sashays into his life and changes all that. They’re soon married but the truth quickly emerges: Dolores’ beauty hides a calculating heart of stone. The situation is hopeless – until another brain specialist’s oddball research offers a bizarre ray of hope. Anyone with half a brain will rejoice in the sheer lunacy of this sublimely silly farce.
eyelights: Kathleen Turner. Steve Martin. the delirious, absurd script. the original premise.
eyesores: the so-so direction.
“Ladies and gentlemen, I can envision a day when the brains of brilliant men can be kept alive in the bodies of dumb people.”
‘The Man With Two Brains’ is a 1983 science-fiction comedy starring Steve Martin and Kathleen Turner that spoofs ’50s and ’60s B-movies, of the likes of ‘Donovan’s Brain’ and ‘The Brain That Wouldn’t Die’. It was the third of four collaborations between Martin and director Carl Reiner, following ‘Dead Men Don’t Wear Plaid‘.
It follows the comic adventures of an eccentric brain surgeon (Martin) who is manipulated into marrying a sexually provocative but emotionally cruel femme fatale (Turner) and who, on their belated honeymoon in Vienna, discovers and falls in love with the live but disembodied brain of another woman (voiced by Sissy Spacek).
Throw in some telepathic contacts between the surgeon and the brain, human-to-gorilla brain transplants, a condo that conceals a full-sized dungeon (complete with moat and mad scientist lab), a serial killer who murders people in elevators by injecting window cleaner, a jealous -but deceased- ex-wife and you’ve got our picture.
Sounds weird enough already? It gets better (or worse, depending on your perspective).
Our good doctor, Michael Hfuhruhurr (try saying THAT three times real quick!), is not just a brain surgeon, he’s obsessed with brains – hence the attraction to this… ahem… like-minded woman. He’s also devised a screw-top surgical procedure that permits him to do brain surgery without having to cut the brain pan.
Meanwhile, Turner is a serial bride (and widow!) who delights in torturing her spouses so that they tense up, have heart attacks and/or aneurysms and die. She also promises them all manners of sexual gratifications and then finds excuses for not following through, leaving them more and more frustrated.
Turner has possibly never been better: she plays the comedy perfectly without playing it up. And she’s deliciously evil. Plus she’s sexy as hell (man, the way she uses her mouth, with tongue kisses and lots of unforgettable finger sucking, utterly fogs up the brain). There are tons of naughty gags all involving her.
(Ahem… which may explain why I like the movie so much.)
Steve Martin is also quite good, making his character sympathetic even if he’s rather full of himself (ex: while discussing his legacy with a reporter, he chooses to sound pompous over sounding wishy-washy, or he gets competitive with a grade-schooler who knows nearly as much as he does). At his core, he’s a nice guy.
But what really makes the picture work is the humour. While the direction can be so-so, the material sparkles much of the time. There are frequent touches of absurdist, surrealistic humour – albeit in little touches. The picture boasts of a rather unusual mixture of silly, offbeat, satirical, crude and abstract all in one package.
‘The Man With Two Brains’ is quite unique, but somehow it works. On paper, it probably shouldn’t, but the cast and the writing deliver enough laughs that one can get past the inherent oddity of the piece. In other hands, this story would have produced a crappy cult film. But with Martin, Turner and Reiner on board, it’s a side-splitting gem.
Date of viewing: June 13, 2015