Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Zeig Heil! *thhbtth* Heil! *thhbtth* Right in Der Führer’s Pickle Jar :: A Beer-Gut Reaction to the Patchwork Stoopidity of (Who The Hell Knows') They Saved Hitler's Brain!

Our grainy film begins with a sweaty Professor Bernard nervously taking a phone call while stuffing documents into his briefcase. Assuring the party on the other end that he has it, well, whatever the hell this "it" is presumably leaves the office with him. Outside, waiting and watching, are two gentlemen who resemble the Blues Brothers -- so we’ll be referring to them as Jake and Elwood. Anyhoo, Jake answers a payphone and assures a Mr. VanPelt that everything’s being taken care of. Then, when Bernard gets into his car and cranks the ignition, his car explodes, giving Jake a reason to smile sinisterly as Elwood drives them away.

Meanwhile, at CID headquarters (Central Intelligence Division -- soon revealed to be populated by a bunch of Completely Incompetent Dunderheads), VanPelt (who looks a lot like Hugh Marlowe doing the producer a huge favor) meets with special agent Vic Gilbert. Seems the late Professor Bernard had found the antidote to the deadly Nerve Gas-G but all his knowledge and notes went up with him in the explosion. However, Gilbert reveals it was another scientist, a Professor Coleman, who was really responsible for finding the antidote. This news concerns the treacherous Van Pelt, who then sends Vic on a wild goose-chase to find out more info on the late Bernard while he takes care of this Coleman personally -- he typed ominously...

Assigned a new partner, Gilbert meets up with Toni Gordon at his swanky apartment, where they argue about his piggish attitude on her gender and male chauvinism in general until they finally settle down to business and start going over the files, which reveal Bernard spent some time on the Caribbean island of Mandoras -- where it's rumored a bunch of relocated Nazis are plotting the rise of the Fourth Reich. Not buying it, and thinking their current assignment is a colossal waste of time, Gordon thinks they really should be concentrating on Coleman instead. But Gilbert says they need to stick with the plan, and that VanPelt is handling Coleman.

Meanwhile, Coleman (Holland), is showing a film of the G-Gas' effectiveness as it kills an elephant almost instantaneously to a bunch of Pentagon brass, including his son-in-law, another CID agent, Phil Day (Stocker). Coleman explains the gas is basically DDT for humans, and that every nation has it -- but only we have the cure: Formula-D. (U.S.A! U.S.A! U.S.A!) Much techno-babble follows as he explains the chemical components of the antidote, which "has almost positive results." (... Wait. What? 'Almost positive results?' Well, that’s reassuring.) And while he blathers, outside in the hall, Camino Padua (Rivas) tries to get past the guard. He desperately wants to talk to Coleman, but is frightened off by Frank Dvorak (Reed), Coleman’s assistant -- who, if it wasn't obvious enough, just oozes the bad guy vibe.

After the demonstration concludes, Coleman receives a threatening phone call informing his daughter, Suzanne, has been kidnapped. Ordered to come to her apartment he finds Suzie’s boyfriend, David (Peters), alone and all roughed up. They leave to find a working phone but are quickly hijacked by Jake and Elwood. (Sort of. I’ll explain it all in a second.) Luckily, agent Gordon-- who decided to interview Coleman anyway -- witnesses this abduction. (Sort of. But not really.) Camino sees it, too. (No. Really.) Tailing the Bluesmobile to an old house, Gordon sneaks in for a closer look. Alas, she must have flunked stealth and subterfuge at the CID Academy, because they can't help but hear her. Managing to escape and make it to a phone booth, Gordon calls Gilbert and manages to relay where Coleman is being stashed before Jake guns her down.

Thus, Gilbert arrives on scene too late because Coleman is already gone. Then, VanPelt arrives shortly after him, reveals his treachery, and shoots Gilbert. But as the agent reacts to a phantom bullet, it's VanPelt who falls -- shot by Gordon (who wasn’t quite dead, I guess). Told to run away with his partner's dying breath, Gilbert manages to get himself shot as he escapes out the back. He still manages to get into his car and speeds away, but the wound is too grave, and Gilbert passes out, wrecks his car, and dies in the resulting explosion -- and a very familiar crash and explosion if you've seen Thunder Road. (Come to think of it, I think that earlier car detonation which killed Bernard was also pilfered from that flick.)

Elsewhere, agent Day returns home to his wife, Kathy (Caire), who is Coleman's other daughter (-- who bears a more than striking resemblance with Donna Reed). As they leave for a night on the town, Camino hi-jacks them at gunpoint. Hustling them into their car, he makes Phil drive, allowing the reluctant kidnapper to concentrate. He swears he means them no real harm, that he is from Mandoras, and how Kathy’s father and sister have been taken there against their will. But before he can get into the details, they come to stoplight and the Bluesmobile pulls up beside them. (Sort of.) Then, when Jake shoots Camino, the lack of a silencer leads to this funny exchange of dialogue from the unobservant Phil and Kathy:

"Oh, Phil, something's happened pull over."

"What happened?"

"I don't know."

"He’s been shot." 

He's dead. Murdered. And someone's responsible. 
(*pffffttttt* Hot-shot CID agent, my ass.)

Before Camino dies, however, he shows them a coded matchbook signal for 'friend' in Mandoras. Then, acting as nonchalantly as you can with a dead body, they prop Camino up in a phone booth with them as Phil calls Coleman’s office, where Dvorak ominously ignores the phone. (Camino’s body is discovered later in another unintentionally funny scene.) Thus, with no other leads on the missing persons, it’s off to the tropical paradise of Mandoras; the land of surf, sun, and Red Herrings. (Fascist Herrings?) 

Escorted to their hotel by the chief of police (Paiva -- yet another fan favorite here at the old Brewery), after checking in, they are visited by a man who bumped into them at the airport. This stranger (Rivas again) tells Phil to check his pocket, where he finds a friendly matchbook that was slipped to him at the terminal. Introducing himself as Teo Padua, Camino's younger brother, he informs them Suzie is okay and on the loose somewhere in the city, but the Nazis are holding Coleman captive. Teo then leads us into a bizarre flashback sequence chock full of stock war footage:

Seems his late brother was a scientist working in Germany during World War II. And along with some other scientists and surgeons, he was forced by Hitler to find a way to make him immortal. But the best they could come up with was to lop his head off, put in a jar, and hook it up to a machine, keeping the dictator alive indefinitely. To keep it a secret, the SS kill all the men who performed this quackery -- sorry, surgery, but Camino, somehow, managed to survive to tell the tale. After that massive plot dump -- and be careful not to step in it, Teo must leave, but he warns the Days to be extremely cautious -- and to watch out for Vasquez, the assassin.

Eyes wide open, the couple head for the Las Dos Palabras Bar-n-Gill; home of the Mandoran resistance. Inside, they find Suzanne (Lynn) wailing away with the local mariachis. Reunited with her sister, she reveals, in jive, man, what happened to her, punctuating every sentence with the word "craziest." Then the spotlight falls on a cut-rate Carmen Miranda clone; and as she begins to dance, much to the gawking agent Day’s delight, she jiggles and wiggles and warbles as all the Red Herrings gather in the bar -- Nestor, Teo and Vasquez. Suddenly, the lights go off, a shot rings out, and when the lights come back on, Vasquez is dead, Kathy and Suzie are gone, and Phil is arrested.

Ah, but Day really isn’t under arrest; it was just a ruse by Nestor to get him out of town and to the Presidential Palace. Inside, they find the girls in the company of El Presidente Padua (Regas -- and yes, he’s Camino and Teo’s dad). Desperately wanting the Nazis out of Mandoras, Padua is powerless to stop them and must do there bidding. And so, the prisoners are taken downstairs and reunited with Coleman. Here, we also find out that Dvorak is, indeed, a Nazi sympathizer -- and so is Suzie’s boyfriend, David.

Herding them into the main hall, the captives are shown the Führer’s pickled puss -- alive and well and twitching, on display in front of an ass-backward swastika. With that out of the way, the prisoners are returned to their cells, where Frank reveals since Coleman has given them Antidote-D, they intend to use the G-Gas to take over the world. And it all begins tonight when the Nazis meet a plane carrying the deadly toxin!

Mustering up their assault force (-- there appears to be about six of them), the Nazis plop the Führer into his traveling case and head for the landing strip. And since these idiots have revealed their master plan, it’s time for Teo and Nestor to spring their trap and free our heroes. Then, rounding up a few more rebels, they head for the rendezvous point just as the plane lands and out pops Jake and Elwood (-- sort of). And then a fight breaks out between the two factions, with the Mandorans quickly taking the upper hand by destroying the plane and the G-Gas with grenades. (Although the shoddy editing makes it look like they’re throwing the pins instead of the grenades and are blowing themselves up.) 

Soon enough, the Nazis are routed and Hitler’s evil noggin goes up in flames, rather gruesomely, after his car is bombed. Thus and so, with the Nazi threat neutralized, our American friends can return home; only they can’t find Teo or Suzie -- until she calls and informs them they ran off and got married before the end credits roll. 

One of B-Moviedom's greatest mysteries is the exact extenuating circumstances that led Crown International Pictures to take an already fairly insane psycho-noir flick like Madmen of Mandoras and pad it out with some clumsy and highly anachronistic footage spliced in with all the skill of Jerry Warren, turning it into the much more recognizable -- but still extremely stoopid, They Saved Hitler's Brain.

Well, that's not entirely true. We do know why they did it; to extend the original film's running time so it could be packaged for television, making it kind of an ersatz Made for TV movie, where we're supposed to buy these people... 

And these The Mod Squad rejects... 

And this little guy... 

...Were all part of the same movie. E'yup. Basically, we have two films clumsily Scotch-taped together. And to keep your scorecards straight, agent Day, Coleman, Kathy, Suzie, the Mandorans, Hitler's dismember head (special shout out to Bill Freed for pulling that off), and all of the Nazis are part of Madmen of Mandoras. And VanPelt, agents Gilbert and Gordon, and Jake and Elwood were all part of the new stuff shot later. Thus, we have the 'why' for They Saved Hitler's Brain, leaving us to flounder and flail as we ponder on the 'who, what, where,' and 'when.'

Neither half comes even close to matching up. The film stock, the clothes, and the hairstyles are all way, way, WAY off in the additional footage, resulting in a fairly hilarious square peg pounded mercilessly into a very round hole for some ninety minutes. The most hilarious misstep, however, is the additional soundtrack, which sounded like it was stolen from a vintage porn loop. I half expected agents Vic and Toni to start stripping and head into the bedroom when they first met. Luckily, except for a brief cameo by Jake and Elwood at the airstrip during the climax, most of the idiotic inserts and erroneous edits are all done about twenty minutes in. So, basically, once all the new people have died, we're back to the original. Hooray! Which also means we have to now watch the original. Boo!

Now, I’d love to tell you who directed, wrote, or played these riveting roles, but, again, they appear to be lost in some cinematic oblivion -- or, more than likely, a self-imposed witless protection program. Lately, the going theory on those responsible for the additional footage is a group of UCLA film students, looking for an industry in. As to when, well, I've heard anywhere between 1968 through 1976. And where is anywhere between Los Angeles and the Philippines. What I can tell you for sure is that the same group did the same kind of clumsy inserts for another film, Carnival of Crime.

I guess if it's any consolation, if you've seen They Save Hitler's Brain means you don't have to see Madmen of Mandoras, which comes off as Poverty Row version of an Alfred Hitchcock thriller mixed with an Allied Artist sleaze-noir of that era with a free-floating Hitler head as a cherry on top. Sounds like a fantastic recipe for a true gonzoidal classic. Well, you'd think so. But the two-punch combo of They Saved Hitler's Brain and Madmen of Mandoras reminds me of the time I accidentally made a pot of macaroni 'n' cheese with some milk that had gone bad without realizing it, meaning the end result sure looked good but, man, did it taste like shit.

They Saved Hitler's Brain (????) / The Madmen of Mandoras (1963) Paragon Films Inc. :: Sans-S / EP: Anthony Sanucci / P: Carl Edwards / D: David Bradley / W: Steve Bennett, Peter Miles / C: Stanley Cortez / E: Alan C. Marks / M: Peter Zinner / S: Walter Stocker, Audrey Caire, Carlos Rivas, John Holland, Marshall Reed, Scott Peters, Dani Lynn, Nestor Paiva, Bill Freed

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