The Man with Two Brains (TMWTB) is not a film for everyone, hell it is not even a comedy for everyone. All things considered, the film does not really work that well, and most of its most redeeming moments seem to be completely by accident. That being said, most of us find ourselves torn. If you are like me you find Steve Martin undeniably redeemable, no matter what the subject matter may be. On the other hand, there are quite a few people that do not feel this way. This was obvious when the film premiered and received mixed reviews, probably more than any other Martin film and definitely more than any other Martin/Reiner film.
The film is unconventional at every turn. It seems unusual even for Martin. Certain jokes obviously miss and that doesn’t seem to matter in the grand scheme because for whatever reason I can’t stop watching it. It has everything to do with how enigmatic Martin is on screen and much is to be said how enticing Kathleen Turner is throughout, certainly convincing enough to have driven a man insane.
Our story follows self-proclaimed legendary brain surgeon Dr. Michael Hfuhruhurr (I have tried to perfect the pronunciation out loud ever since watching and I cannot do it as well as Martin) developer of the cranial screw-top brain entry. While conducting an interview, he ends up accidentally hitting a lovely woman by the name of Dolores Benedict (Kathleen Turner) with his car who serendipitously needs brain surgery. Dr. Hfuhruhurr finds himself falling for Ms. Benedict what he doesn’t know is that Benedict is a femme fatale who is only interested in his money. Things get even more interesting while the Doctor is at a conference in Vienna he meets Dr. Alfred Necessiter. Necessiter is working on an experimental brain technique of his own but what he doesn’t know is that somehow Dr. Hfuhruhurr has some sort of telepathic bond with one of the brain specimens. As the connection between this brain, whose name is Anne Uumellmahaye (voiced but uncredited by Sissy Spacek), grows the more it becomes apparent he needs to find a way to save her and in the process save himself from his now wife Dolores Hfuhruhurr.
When you take the humor of Steve Martin at base value, it can obviously be hit or miss, but it is apparent that he isn’t out to appeal to the masses necessarily. The same can be said about Director/Writer for the film Carl Reiner. His unique sense of humor was of a kind that did not seem to age well. When you put the two together you get a unique and out of place storylines and jokes that somehow just work. As much as you start out not really enjoying the film, as it progresses you find yourself laughing without much reason. As a whole, the film feels like something you would come up with late one night while drinking with your friends – if your friends were legendary comedians. The film seems to have been made if for no other reason than, to make Reiner and Martin laugh. The problem is that it has charm and the more I write about it the more I remember moments that made me laugh throughout. Is it a ridiculous movie? Yes, but so are some of the best comedies by nature.
The Film 3.5/5
Director Carl Reiner got lucky when he partnered with legendary cinematographer Michael Chapman (The Last Detail, Taxi Driver, Invasion of the Body Snatchers, Raging Bull) there are some accidentally beautiful shots within this film. Moments that are made even more brilliant and wonderful to see on Blu-ray. The film originally filmed on 35mm comes to life with bright colors and hilarious antics throughout with the upscale. Some of my favorite moments take place in Dr. Neccessiter’s brain room all the pinks and blues make for a contrastingly beautiful scene. I found the quality to be there enough to justify the upgrade if this is one you already own. Bringing life to a film that may have been lost to some of the current generations by upgrading its format is always a good thing.
Picture Quality 4/5
The Original sound mix for TMWTB was MONO and as far as upgrading, The packaging boasts DTS-HD Master Audio: English 2.0 Mono, however I will let you be the judge on whether or not it is discernibly noticeable of even more so is it really necessary for a film like this to have something grand in the way of an audio upgrade. No, for me with a film of this nature the most important aspects for me come down to two things, 1) is the audio stable- as in do I have to keep my hand on the remote and 2) can I hear the dialogue well enough without having to keep on the subtitles. In this regard, I can safely say that the films audio track upgrade succeeds in its attempt and comes across wonderfully. That being said Composer Joel Goldsmith came up with an oddly memorable and appropriate score for the film. It feels like your run of the mill over-the-top eighties score, with a techno/sci-fi vibe. In particular, toward the end and over the credits we get the feeling that the score was meant to add much more drama to the film than it ultimately called for in the script.
Audio Quality 5/5
Here we have the fairly standard and unobtrusive packaging from Warner Brother Archives. The artwork used on the front is the same, if not a slight variation, on the original artwork used for the film upon its release in 1983. The case feels sturdy and will hold up well over time. It feels new, and like Warner Brothers puts care into the re-release of these films. I would like it more if we had a slipcover but thankfully (almost) making up for it they did not cut out the eco logo inside the case which can cause the Amaray case to feel flimsy. On the inside again we get artwork on the disc this ceases to amaze me however simple a decision it may be it makes an impact on the consumer that physical media is worth it because of certain visually appealing elements.
The Packaging 4/5
Yet again it would seem that unfortunately we are left without any extras. However unfortunate yet not that surprising, this is the second instance in which an Archive Release failed to include any extras. It is hard to be mad when the film holds its own well enough however again I would have loved to have seen some Steve Martin extras. I would have loved to have seen what his thoughts were on the film so many years later.
Special Features 0/5
The Man with Two Brains is quite possibly the most unique plotline for a comedy film I have ever seen. The subject matter only works because of Martin, and the writing that Reiner was able to contribute keeps Martin grounded and the story moving (yes that is technically conjecture since I don’t have a way of knowing who wrote what but watch it is obvious when Martin is in the driver’s seat). The film also may have been trying to achieve some sort of subtextual point about the value of a woman’s mind over her body, as this is in large part the contributing driving plot line, However, I must admit this hardly seems complimentary in a film like this, but it is always good to see when substance makes its way into comedy, ultimately paving the way for many of the comedies that would later follow this film. The film seems to have two halves and is surprisingly charming, much in the way The Jerk was, once the love story between Dr. Hfuhruhurr and Ms. Uumellmahaye starts to unfold. This is in large part due to the severely charming nature of Spacek’s voice, and how badly you want them to conquer all odds no matter how ridiculous. The film certainly tests the limits of ridiculous and what constitutes a successful comedy. A friend of mine has always had a theory that if a film makes you laugh, or smile, or simply manages to take you away for the day-to-day drag of it all, then it is indeed a great film. If that is our measurement this film definitely succeeds in spades. You can purchase this edition HERE.
Overall 4/5- It may be ridiculous but definitely worth owning!