The Man Without a Body (1957) – Friday Night At The Home Drive-In

Poster for The Man Without a Body (1957)

The Man Without a Body (1957) by #WLeeWilder and #CharlesSaunders
#RobertHutton #GeorgeCoulouris #JuliaArnall

A businessman with a brain tumour conspires to get a new brain – by stealing the head of Nostradamus.

“A diabolical dream come true! Who is his Next Victim?”

#Horror #SciFi

I suppose I should know by now what to expect when I see the name W. Lee Wilder attached to a movie… The Man Without a Body (1957) is about as good – or not good – as all my past experience should have taught me. For those who may not remember, W. Lee Wilder is the brother of Billy Wilder. Yes, Billy Wilder, the brilliant film director who made such classics as The Apartment (1960), Some Like It Hot (1959) and Sunset Boulevard(1950). W. Lee Wilder made about 35 films, none of them as famous or successful as Billy Wilder’s films. Billy apparently once referred to his older brother W. Lee as “a dull son of a bitch”. 

So was The Man Without a Body better or worse than other W. Lee Wilder films?

The Man Without a Body (1957) may be my least favourite of W. Lee Wilder films so far. It’s hard to say for sure, without rewatching them all (and who would want to do that?), but I think I had the least amount of fun watching this one. I think I even fell asleep at one point, perhaps illustrating the point that W. Lee is “a dull son of a bitch.” 

I suppose it started off well enough, with a rich businessman finding out that he’s dying of a brain tumour. And then turning to science to try to extend his life in some diabolical way… But the plan that he comes up with is utterly absurd. He wants to to replace his brain (or maybe even his entire head) with someone else’s brain? Now just a minute…

It’s about what?!

Yeah, well, this businessman seems to think that he can keep himself alive by transplanting a new brain (or head) onto his body. Now I’ve seen a fair number of brain transplant movies, and they are ALWAYS about transplanting the brain of the rich person into a young healthy body. This makes sense. The brain contains everything that makes a person who they are; memories, thoughts, ideas – it’s everything. If you could keep your brain alive, you could theoretically live forever.

I’m no doctor, but I would think that if you transplanted another person’s brain into your body, you would essential become them. Or, in other words, you would be giving them a new body. You would cease to exist as soon as your brain was tossed into the trash bin.

This businessman seems to think that he can train the new brain to remember his thoughts, and his life story – and this is how he will live on. But even if that works, it would still be someone else remembering his story, wouldn’t it? He wouldn’t be living on to remember anything. So what’s the point?

At least it can’t get any weirder than that. Or can it…?

After a visit to Madame Tussaud’s wax museum, the businessman learns about Nostradamus, and decides that this would be the ideal brain for him.

Huh? Isn’t Nostradamus long dead? Yes, but the mad Dr Phil Merrit has successfully made use of a brain from a monkey which had been dead for six years.  He somehow  ‘revitalized’ it and implanted it into another monkey. So the businessman figures, why not revitalize the finest brain of all time and insert it into his head? Or something like that.

Why am I trying to makes sense of this…?

So, what the verdict for The Man Without a Body?

The Man Without a Body (1957) is definitely #NotQuiteClassicCinema, but not the kind that is a joy to watch. Sure, it had a few moments of inadvertent humour. And I can honestly say that I’ve never seen another movie with this exact plot. But, as I said before, it managed to put me to sleep. And I can’t quite imagine ever wanting to watch it again. But even so, it may provide enough jaw-dropping “what the -” moments to make it worth at least one viewing on a #FridayNightAtTheHomeDriveIn.