Man with the Screaming Brain (2005) / Comedy-Sci Fi
MPAA Rated: Not rated, but probably PG-13 for language, violence and sexuality
Running Time: 90 min.
Cast: Bruce Campbell, Tamara Gorski, Stacy Keach, Ted Raimi, Vladimir Kolev, Antoinette Byron
Director: Bruce Campbell
Screenplay: Bruce Campbell, David Goodman
Bruce Campbell's (Serving Sara, Bubba Ho-Tep) directorial debut as a feature film director, his B-movie spoof, Man with the Screaming Brain, is aimed squarely at the audience that worships him, namely, fanatics of campy bad cinema. It is odd but easily accessible, never taking itself seriously in the slightest, and if you love Campbell and relish the silliest of sci-fi, you'll probably come away finding this more entertaining than I was able to. Campbell would also serve as star, co-writer, and co-producer, and this project is one he had been trying to develop for many years. Primarily a comedy, Campbell's creation lacks the hilarity to make it a worthwhile piece for anyone that isn't an avowed fan of his. A chuckle is had here and there, but they are astonishingly few and far between, covering ground that others that have spoofed old sci-fi have done but with less successful results.
Due to budgetary limitations, Campbell decided to set his movie in Bulgaria, which also changes the style of humor somewhat, as now everyone has accents and play to certain stereotypes, some of which do end up marring the film. Campbell stars as William Cole, a wealthy American investor looking to make money continuing development in an underground railway system that will revolutionize the transportation in the Bulgarian city, while making millions for Cole. Meanwhile, Cole's wife, Jackie (Byron, "Home and Away"), has grown restless in the marriage and now is making a pass for their Russian cab driver, Yegor (Kolev, Python 2), while Cole himself has attracted Yegor's former flame, a homicidal gypsy named Tatoya (Gorski, The In-Laws). Tatoya attempts to kill both men that end up deserting her, leaving a local scientist (Keach, American History X) the perfect specimen with which to conduct a human experiment in brain repair utilizing existing brain tissue from a donor. Part of Yegor's brain is implanted into Cole's and the result is two personalities competing for one body, and both minds are seeking revenge on the woman that did them wrong.
A high concept movie to be sure, Man with the Screaming Brain never really goes the route of intelligent sci-fi, instead throwing as many scenes of slapstick antics at us in the hopes of tickling our funny bone. The humor is fairly juvenile, made tolerable thanks to good casting in the supporting roles, with an especially memorable performance by Stacy Keach as the benevolent but misguided scientist. However, this is Campbell's show all of the way, and he probably won't disappoint his followers with his zany character here, especially as he contorts his body to show that he is a man conflicted by two masters at once.
Despite these nutty performances, the material just isn't fresh or funny enough to sustain a good film. A so-so plot combined with broad physical gags that have been done many times before just aren't enough to make a movie out of. It doesn't come as a surprise that Campbell had been trying to make this film for over two decades, as many facets of the story and humor are antiquated and derivative. Lots of energy and zest went into making this film, but in the end, all we're left with are funny accents and silly people squabbling for the 90 minute running time. It's a shame that the fun that must have been evident behind the scenes during the making of this movie didn't translate into a better feature. For die-hard Campbell nuts and B-movie junkies only.
©2005 Vince Leo