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Monday, June 1, 2015


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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