The Man Without a Body (1957)

The Man Without a Body (1957) movie poster

directors Charles Saunders and W. Lee Wilder
viewed: 10/23/2015

Digging into the 1950’s horror/sci-fi films of W. Lee Wilder, I’ve noted that he has less in common with his brother Billy Wilder than he does with another notable Hollywood director, the wonderfully awful Ed Wood, Jr.  Unlike the other films of Wilder’s that I’ve seen recently (Phantom from Space (1953), Killers from Space (1954), The Snow Creature (1954), and Fright (1955)), The Man Without a Body wasn’t written by his son Myles, was shot in the UK for a seemingly higher budget than his Poverty Row flicks, and shared directorial credit with Charles Saunders (though sources claim Saunders didn’t have a lot to do with the film).

The Man Without a Body has one of the most absurd plots of all time.  Rich industrialist Karl Broussard (George Coulouris) is dying of a brain tumor so he seeks a radical medical solution, a brain transplant!  While you rack your brain trying to figure how this would keep “him” alive, add this to the mix: the brain he seeks out is that of sixteenth century prophet, Nostradamus, because of his great intellect.  You see it doesn’t matter that he’s been dead 400 years if his brain has been kept properly.

So they bring the head back to life and tell old Nostradamus all about the wonders of the 20th century.  Meanwhile Broussard gets crazier and crazier with his gorgeous mistress Odette (Nadja Regin) having begun an affair with one of the doctors.  This wouldn’t be quite the camp classic if the “man without a body” didn’t eventually get attached to a body — and it does, in particularly wonderfully terrible form.

While some of the visual effects are actually reasonably cool (I really liked the eyes that were kept alive on their own, looking around the room), the final creation with Nostradamus’s head on the doctor’s body is held in place with a massive rectangular bandage.  I’ve noted before that Wilder’s lack of interest in the aesthetics of his monsters being one of his worst consistent failures.  Here, like in Killers from Space, the badness turns to comic goodness.

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