The Madmen of Mandoras (1963)

(Spoilers ahead — if you’ve been living under a rock…)

This one is better known under the title of the version edited for television, They Saved Hitler’s Brain.

Which, you have to admit, is a far better title.  Although it does give away one of the film’s big surprises, as we’re some time into the film before anyone mentions “Mr. H.”  Actually, I’m moderately surprised to see that Mr. H does not appear on the original poster.

Basically this one starts with a scientist and his daughter getting kidnapped and taken to a Latin American country where everyone drives big American cars.

However, even though this is a spy thriller involving that old, familiar trope, the stolen formula, and that even older and more familiar trope, world domination, we all know the main reason anyone is going to watch this one is because it’s the film with Hitler’s head (not brain) in a jar.

And that is the main reason to watch this one, as it really isn’t all that exciting as these sorts of films go.  There are a few random shots at hip teenage language, a bit of driving around, people falling down bloodlessly when shot, an elephant supposedly felled by nerve gas, and a moderately interesting devious Chief of Police.  Perhaps the most interesting detail, though, comes when Mr. H  takes a roadtrip, and they detach a glass cylinder from the complex machinery that has supposedly been keeping hims alive and it doesn’t seem to matter much.  Guess we really don’t need all those unimportant bodily functions like breathing or pumping blood…

The curious thing is that there is something far more interesting hinted at here, but never explored:  at one point, a comment by one of the members of the resistance leaves us wondering whether the head actually is giving the Nazis instructions, or if they only think it does.  Unfortunately that one goes unanswered, and the little we see of Hitler’s head really doesn’t tell us much.

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