They Saved Hitlerís Brain (1969)

Hi all, Nate here. So I actually wanted to review the recent Asylum production Nazis at the Center of the Earth, mostly because the title is so badass cool and because, well, because it's about Nazis, at the center of the Earth. But I quickly realized it was simple torture porn, and poorly done torture porn at that, and that's just not my cup of tea. Keeping with the "holdout Nazis" theme, though, I discovered They Saved Hitler's Brain, another b-movie that couldn't possibly live up to such a sensationalist and exploitative title, but was certainly going to try.

In two sentences, here is this movie's production backstory...It was originally a short film from the early 1960s called the Madmen of Mandoras, but when it was bought for TV syndication in the late 1960s they had to pad out the running time by 30 minutes or so. So they hired a bunch of UCLA film school kids, gave them a hundred dollars and a camera, and set them free. Can't make this stuff up.

So we open in Southern California and are immediately assaulted with 1969-ness. Everyone has mustaches and sideburns and wide lapels and the air just reeks of marijuana and political extremism. The basic set-up is that there's a couple of smartyhead professors who are working on a wicked new world-ending biological weapon (or maybe just the antidote for it, hard to tell). Some group of bad guys, which you'd think were the Rooskies but clearly aren't, are so interested in getting their hands on the professors' work that that are willing to shoot one of them and kidnap the other. And since neither of them thought to keep any notes or back up anything on a flash drive, their research is lost with them.

The Feds are quite interested in the Professor's claims.

All of this is investigated by some CIA-type field agents based out of a shlubby one-bedroom apartment in Corvina. There's a young guy with a pornstar mustache and a big-boned blonde who really needs a better moisturizing conditioner for her fly-away split ends. These two cruise around the city in her VW Bug for a few scenes, investigating the kidnapping and uncovering some double-crossing double agents and such. And...then they are both shot and killed by the bad guys.

They are literally reading their lines off the script, on camera, priceless.

Why did the movie just kill off what was clearly going to be their protagonists 25 minutes into the movie? Because this first part was simply that filler stuff I mentioned before that was added in to pad out the running time so the movie could fit into a two-hour programming block. No one here was meant to be seen again so it was no big deal to kill them off, even if they were, in the end, going to be the most interesting characters in the entire movie.

Bang, your acting career is dead.

But it was established before that the kidnapped Professor Coleman's son-in-law Phil was also a Gubbmint agent. While the first two (deceased) spooks were pure 1970s disco swanky, Phil is a straight-laced, fedora-wearing, Eisenhower-era G-man who has probably never had facial hair or worn polyester in his life. Yes, Phil lives in the 1950s world of the original Madmen of Mandoras, and has the grainy, faded filmstock and murky, ill-matched voice track to prove it. Phil and his wife (the Professor's daughter) get involved in the mess early as a mysterious foreign guy shows up to warn them that the Professor has been taken away to the exotic South American nation of Mandoras. That guy, his expository role over, is then shot dead by some black-hat goons and Phil stuffs his corpse in a phone booth after stealing his wallet (I shit you not).

He gives them a pack of matches before he croaks. Foreshadowing!

So Phil flies down to the fictional Mandoras on his own to find Professor Coleman. And even though he's presumably on the clock, he takes his wife down with him, and yes, she's the Professor's daughter and all, but that still seems like a gross misuse of his office's discretionary budget. Once there, it's clear that he was expected, as he's met my the Chief of Police who very politely, but firmly, lets Phil know that he's not going to go too many places in Mandoras without a minder tagging along.

Boss Hogg and Whitey McMilkman give them the stinkeye.

Pam, what's the deal? Why does everyone in Mandoras seem to be watching Phil and his wife like hawks? And why did the wife just smash a lamp over some guy's head? And, most importantly, what is the wife's name? I've gone back and watched the first 40 minutes twice now and not one time was her character's name spoken. Did I miss it? No fair checking wikipedia!

Hey, you, what's your name?

Those are all good questions, Nate, and I hope they'll be answered soon. Up to now, the movie seems to be aiming at suspense, but is actually just managing to be confusing. I did find two mentions of Phil's wife's name, after going back a couple of times to pick it out. Her name is as confusing as the rest of the movie: once she's referred to as "Kathy," and the other time as "K.C." (or possibly Casey). Normally I hate movie voiceovers fiercely, but this movie could use one to clear up some of the confusion. Do you realize we're 40 minutes into it, and still haven't heard any mention of Nazis, let alone Hitler? But let's get back to the movie and hope Hitler shows up soon. We resume with Phil stretched out unconscious on the sofa. Yes, Kathy/K.C. accidentally bashed her husband over the head instead hitting the unknown intruder who broke into their hotel room. This will prove to be typical of Kathy/K.C., as the rest of the movie will show us that she most certainly did not inherit her father's brains. Her main function will be to make dumb remarks at inopportune moments while Phil thinks she's the cutest thing ever. Case in point: he instantly forgets that she's the one who hit him with the lamp, although since he immediately recovered with not even a bruise, I guess there's no reason for him to hold her little error against her.

Pull up a chair, let's have some exposition.

The intruder treats Phil with surprising gentleness, and in fact it turns out he meant no harm in coming to their room (although if so, maybe it would have been better to knock instead of picking the lock the way he did). The intruder tells Phil that his name is Camino, and he finally gives us some real information. Camino tells a long tale, accessorized by sad eyes, trembling lips, and a solemn tone, but it can be summarized by: at the end of World War II, some fanatic Nazis cut off Hitler's head, stuck it in a jar, and took it to Mandoras. You may be saying, what's wrong with that?, but as it happens, there are several things wrong with that. First of all, Hitler's head is still alive, more or less; second, the Nazis have the biological weapon Nate mentioned earlier, a deadly poison gas; and third, they've captured Professor Coleman because he's developed the only known antidote to the gas. By the way, the dead man whose body Phil abandoned in a phone booth was Camino's brother, who was wandering around Phil's hometown for unexplained reasons. Having told his story, Camino departs the way he came, stopping only to warn Phil, "Be careful."

Nicely done superimposed image of Camino while he narrates his flashback scenes.

[Nate: If I may interject for a moment into Pam's review, this is patently ridiculous. All evidence points to Hitler dying in the bunker as reported. Every single person in the Nazi high command that survived the war testified to the fact that Hitler refused to abandon Berlin as the Russians were closing in, even going so far as to order that the last rocket transport to the Moon Base launch without him. What? I can't make that up. Back to you, Pam...]

You'd think that Camino's story, not to mention the fact that Kathy/K.C.'s father is being held captive by a bunch of Nazis, would scare Phil and Kathy/K.C into staying in their hotel room and/or make them decide they have to inform the American authorities right away by whatever means they can contrive. Not so. They decide the best thing for them is a little retail therapy, followed by an interlude at the local cantina. After purchasing a boxful of the local pottery, they saunter over to the cantina for some light entertainment. They're sitting back soaking up atmosphere, when their twosome is interrupted by a squealing young woman, who dashes over to their table and promptly knocks over the box of pottery. This girl is Kathy/K.C.'s sister Suzanne, and she's not in any distress. She also proves to be even dumber than her sister, as she happily informs the twosome that she was recently kidnapped and taken to Mandoras, but once there, was put up in a hotel and given spending money by her captors, with the provision that she can go wherever she wants to but can't call home. Idiot Suzanne doesn't see anything odd in this, but then neither do Phil and Kathy/K.C. Suzanne has been spending her time partying, and she seems perfectly content to do this indefinitely.

I'm right there with you, honey, none of this makes a lick of sense. Let's just have another drink.

We now break for a little exhibition of Latin dancing, interspersed with a lot of sidelong glances between various men in the bar. Gunplay finally erupts between the various men, and when the smoke clears, the two sisters are nowhere to be found. To make matters worse, Phil's arrested for the murder of a man who ended up dead in the crossfire. However, instead of taking him to a filthy jail cell, the Chief of Police conveys him to the Presidential palace, where he's reunited with Kathy/K.C. and Suzanne. For reasons unknown, the President confides to Phil that there are groups of Mandorans strategically located all over the world, poised to attack. The President's supported by an American with a Texas accent who wanders in, and who for reasons unexplained is helping the Mandorans. I guess the President just wanted to brag a little, because Phil, Kathy/K.C., and Suzanne are shortly conveyed to the cells beneath the palace. Here they're reunited with the missing Professor Coleman.

"Ow, this movie hurts!"

Professor Coleman looks somewhat the worse for wear, and it seems the Nazis, who are of course behind all this, have been torturing him to make him tell details about his antidote. (He seems to be the typical B-movie scientist who did earth-shattering research all alone and didn't keep any notes.) The presence of his nearest and dearest of course gives the Nazis more opportunities to apply pressure to him, but it seems time is short. The groups the President was bragging about are going to launch their attacks in a few hours. I guess there's no way to tell them to hold off for a little while? Anyway, the Nazis convey our little band from one torture chamber to another, stopping on the way, for reasons they don't deign to share, to treat them to the sight of Der Fuehrer's head resting peacefully in a (dramatically spotlit) large container. The former leader of the Third Reich is blinking his eyes a lot, perhaps whatever's in the container irritates them.

Hahahahaha!!! That's great, really.

Back in the cell, all seems lost. Two policemen enter the cell and are promptly knocked out by Phil and the Professor, but before they can escape, in walk the Chief of Police and the President. The Chief is holding a gun, but quickly hands it to Phil. It turns out that they're actually working against the Nazis, and that Camino is the President's son! For some reason, maybe Phil's known to be a really hotshot G-man, they immediately let Phil take over on this. The Chief leads the party out of the palace, which seems curiously devoid of guards in view of the fact that it's the place where Hitler's head currently resides, and the party splits up and takes two cars to...someplace where they can get help. It sounded like "Dos Pelagres," although I'm not sure, and there are no subtitles to help. Anyway, suffice it to say that if at least one group makes it to this place, the world will be saved. They make it off the palace grounds safely, but the Nazis have found out they've escaped, and the boss Nazi orders "Operation G" to start immediately. He also chews out the Texan for not being in uniform, so it appears that the Texan is somehow connected with Operation G.

Phil, artfully backlit.

Back at the palace, there's much bustle among the Nazis, who have broken with historical precedent and are all, including the boss, wearing plain dark shirts and pants. Budget limitations among the fugitives, no doubt, or maybe there are no good tailors in Mandoras. Hitler, or what's left of him, is informed that Operation G is going into effect. I'd been wondering if Hitler's head was at all capable of understanding what was going on, but it seems that it is. Up to now it hasn't uttered a word, but it manages to yell, "Mach schnell! Mach schnell!" at the boss. For some reason it's deemed necessary to transfer the head to another location, and Hitler seems perfectly okay with being carried around in a bucket. It just occurred to me to wonder why, if they were able to transport Hitler's head to Mandoras, they couldn't manage to take the whole thing.

So, who combs his hair and trims his mustache and brushes his teeth? Thankless job.

The heroes' two cars were followed immediately by another car, and by that I mean that the other car wasn't more than a few car lengths behind. The driver elects to follow Phil and Kathy/K.C's car, and even though he's still only a few car lengths behind them, Phil somehow manages to elude him. He and Kathy/K.C. reach another town and get out, but one of the Nazis shortly arrives and knows immediately that they stopped there, because they left their car out in plain sight on the main road (!). He chases them through the alleys, and not surprisingly Kathy/K.C. turns out to be one of those women who can't run a step unless she's clutching a man's hand. In order to persuade Phil to surrender, the Nazi says that shortly the gas will be released in this area, and Phil will die. Okay, why do the Nazis want to take Phil alive? What use is he to them? Dr. Coleman is the only one who knows about the antidote, remember? Why don't they just set up roadblocks to keep Phil from getting out of the town until the gas takes effect? Surely they must have gas masks or something to protect themselves against the gas. But Phil manages to get away from Kathy/K.C.'s clutches and shrieks to sneak around and shoot the Nazi with the gun the Chief of Police gave him. And speaking of the Chief of Police, in he walks, accompanied by a nameless police officer. He informs Phil that the President and Professor Coleman have made it to another town whose name I couldn't understand. How he knew where to find Phil I couldn't tell you, since we haven't seen a sign of anybody in the town other than Phil, Kathy/K.C., and the Nazi, so it's not as though anybody could have notified him that two gringoes just showed up.

Lots of standing around talking in this movie.

So Phil, Kathy/K.C., and the Chief of Police are heading somewhere, the President and Dr. Coleman and presumably Suzanne are someplace else, and as the next scene shows us, the boss Nazi, the Texan, and the remains of the Fuehrer are also out on the open highway. Where are they all going? What are they going to do? Just what do the Nazis expect to get out of killing almost everybody in the world? I'll turn this review over to Nate and let him answer these questions.

Who sits in a back seat like that?

Thanks, Pam, I'll do my best. Well, actually I don't know any of the answers to those questions because the movie falls apart in the last 15 minutes. It's dark, it's confusing, everyone looks the same and talks the same (except for the fake-Texan). Cars drive around, girls squeal, and swastika-adorned background characters babble on about the coming end of the word and who will rise from the ashes (hint: Nazis). All I really remember is that Philip uses his wife for a human shield in a gunfight in an alley (no, seriously, no joke there) and that everyone seems to be double crossing everyone else to the point where I needed a flowchart. In the end, the good guys blow up Hitler-in-a-jar with grenades and his wax face melts like the dudes in Raiders of the Lost Ark. Then it becomes a sitcom stinger with everyone laughing and kissing as the credits roll, even though there are still active cells of Nazi commandoes all over the world and soon the Rooskies will figure out how to make the gas that no one knows the antidote for and then the world is screwed for a second time. Oh, and, Kathy/KC's annoying sister gets married in a Tijuana heroin den to some dirt bag, but everyone seems ok with that. The end.

Don't open the box!

So, seriously, this film's director had Adolph Freakin' Hilter's head in a jar like a Futurama skit and he did absolutely nothing with it. That should have been the focus of your movie, none of that useless garbage with the hippydippy sister and all those slow-talking Mexicans. Canned Hitler should have had, like, 45 straight minutes of dialogue where he banters and argues with our heroes over Nationalism and Tiger tank production rates and then has his headjar mounted on a gatling-armed robot to lead his armies to victory. Yes, we need Robo-Hitler from the boss level of the 8-bit Castle Wolfenstein, because that would be so awesome.

You have to hit this sucker a zillion times before he goes down.

Instead, they just have Hitler-under-glass sitting passively in the back seat of a car, mute and helpless as some plucky American g-man blows his (metaphorical) ass up with some well-tossed pineapple grenades. Very anticlimactic, terribly wasted cinema potential. In the surely-coming 2014 remake of They Saved Hitler's Brain, starring Channing Tatum and Selena Gomez (...Nic Cage IS Hitler!) they better have Robo-Hitler or I'm totally not going to ever watch it, ever. Well, until it hits Netflix and then I might watch it, especially if Selena Gomez gets naked and Nic Cage's Hitler fights zombie werewolves or something. I'm not asking for much here.

Or maybe a movie about this. Wait, no, not that.

The End.

Written in April 2013 by Nathan Decker and Pam Burda.

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