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Monday, June 1, 2015

THE MAN WITH TWO BRAINS (1983)

This, the third of four films Steve Martin made with Carl Reiner directing, may be the most consistently funny of the lot. A Horror Film sendup, it’s something of a companion piece to Mel Brooks’ YOUNG FRANKENSTEIN/’74, if more ‘50s HAMMER FILMS than ‘30s UNIVERSAL, and missing Brooks’ unified vision. Reiner puts Martin thru his paces as a brilliant, if crazed, neurosurgeon, trapped in a hellish marriage to gorgeous, but ruthlessly avaricious Kathleen Turner. Very va-va-voom at the time. What a pity she didn’t come with the disembodied brain-in-a-jar Martin’s telepathically fallen for! (Voiced by Sissy Spacek, Southern twang intact.) Compared to the SNL/Lorne Michaels’ spinoff pics of the era, BRAIN remains silly, fresh & outlandishly funny. Mysteriously so when you factor in Reiner’s all-thumbs helming. So weirdly bad, it acquires a morbid fascination. Will he ever spot a proper camera set up? Or coherently stage a comedy bit? Maybe he’ll get us from Room A to Room B without tripping over his angles? The lack of directing chops pretty much doomed all his other films, yet somehow, it doesn’t seem to damage his Steve Martin foursome.* Even though they look just as cramped and poorly paced on the little screen as they did in big movie theaters.

DOUBLE-BILL: *The other three were THE JERK/’79 (the sole big hit); DEAD MEN DON’T WEAR PLAID/’82 (a noir stunt film); and ALL OF ME/’84 (best of the lot, if not the funniest).

SCREWY THOUGHT OF THE DAY: Cinematographers love to light Martin. Known as The Man With No Pores, his face as smooth as a baby’s bottom.

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