Man with the Screaming Brain

William and Jackie

Man with the Screaming Brain is like a B-movie horror from the 50´s starring, directed and co-written by Bruce Campbell. It tells the tale of a successful US businessman visiting Bulgaria who runs afoul of a creepy gypsy woman and ends up in the hands of an insane Doctor who manages to rebuild his brain using bits of another brain, thereby fusing two personalities within him.

William Cole is a tycoon visiting former communist Bulgaria with his trampy wife. He quickly employs Yegor, a Bulgarian hard-man as his driver and before long his wife Jackie is straying. Not to be outdone William tries to pull the psychotic Tatoya who plans to steal his money and kill him. Meanwhile Doctor Ivan Ivanovich Ivanov is trying to get William´s attention in the hope of selling his research on repairing dead people by using bits of other people a la Dr. Frankenstein.

Tatoya cannot contain her psychotic rage for long and when she murders William and Yegor the Doc sends his henchman Pavel to recover the bodies and sets about repairing William´s battered brain with bits of Yegor´s. William awakes to find himself merged with Yegor and escapes from the Doc to embark on an insane revenge rampage. When Tatoya kills his wife Jackie she too is brought back in the body of a robot and things get even sillier.

This is a ridiculous film with plot holes aplenty and the cheese factor goes a long way towards destroying the humour. Written, directed and starring Bruce Campbell you´d be forgiven for expecting a B-movie and that is most definitely what you get. The writing is bizarre and the story doesn´t really make coherent sense; the whole thing is played for laughs and there are some funny ideas at play but the film never really hits the anarchic heights it is aiming for.

William loses the plot

Bruce plays William Cole and gives the best acting performance, with his body controlled half by him and half by Yegor and the two constantly arguing in his head there is plenty of material for comedic scenes and indeed the scenes featuring Bruce losing it are the best in the film, though he doesn´t quite have the same manic energy he displayed in Evil Dead 2 when Ash´s hand gets possessed.

Yegor is played by the well cast Vladimir Kolev an Eastern European stereotype through and through. B-movie king Stacey Keach pops up as the evil Doctor and Ted Raimi plays his sidekick Pavel, both give the hammiest possible performances. The rather plastic looking Antoinette Byron (whom you may remember from the lofty heights of Neighbours) plays Jackie the wife and Tamara Gorski plays Tatoya.

Man with the Screaming Brain has its moments but for the most part it is a disappointment. The script is full of cheesy dialogue and bad jokes about the east-west divide, most of the characters are thin stereotypes and the portrayal of Bulgaria is probably offensive to Bulgarians, they even visit "Gypsy Town" at one point. Bruce isn´t really a director either and it shows.

The film is pretty fun and Bruce is always watchable but the pacing is bad and many of the jokes are groan inducing, there´s also not as much slapstick madness as there should be. Sadly after an amazing performance in Bubba Hotep Bruce has crashed back down to earth here and Man with the Screaming Brain is unlikely to raise more than a few chuckles.


Reviewed by Simon Hill

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