Category: Hitler’s Head in a Jar

The Madmen of Mandoras (1963)


Gorehouse Greats #6

Is it really possible for a film to be influential and famous even though very few people have actually seen it?  Well, I think Madmen of Mandoras (Or MoM, as I like to call it) is proof that it certainly can happen. You probably know of this thing by its much better alternate title: They Saved Hitler’s Brain. If you’re a fan of The Simpsons or Futurama, it will probably bring up images of heads in jars, specifically Hitler’s. Why they didn’t call it “They Saved Hitler’s Head” I don’t know but I guess it doesn’t have the same ring to it. The version with this alternate title is actually quite a bit different. See, when David Bradley’s dirt cheap little war thriller was sold to TV in the 1970’s, a bunch of extra footage was produced and cut in which mostly consisted of a bunch of idiot detectives stumbling around pretending to be connected to the events of the actual film, which worked about as well as you’d think. This extra footage somehow managed to be even crappier than the original movie, which is quite a feat, let me tell you….

So this would normally be where I, your handsome and ever so clever writer, would recap the plot of the film.  See, these things usually follow a formula. I hooked you in with that brilliant and oh so witty opening paragraph so now I get to bore you with explanatory filler. But, um. Okay. Plot. There’s this dude and his wife, whose dad happens to be scientist. Happens to be a scientist that’s developing some kind off improbable death gas that could easily destroy the entire world in two twitches of Hitler’s tiny mustache. Why the Hell you’d make something like this I have no idea but thankfully they’ve also developed an antidote! And dude’s wife’s father is the only scientist that knows how to make this antidote, or something. So this secret Nazi faction kidnaps both the gas and this science dude (and his other irritating “teenage” daughter, who looks about 35 years old and talks in made up youth slang) and takes them to the shitty tropical island of Mandoras (not a real place). It’s up to dude and his wife to save science dude and the world! Oh, and the Nazis take orders straight from Hitler himself, who is just a head in a jar.  Bet you did Nazi that coming! Ha ha ha! Sigh.

It’s actually much more complicated (and stupid) than my paltry attempt to explain things but that’s the gist as far as I could wrap my head around it. But really, none of that “plot” shit even really matters because there is Hitler’s severed head in a jar.  Without that, this movie would be practically worthless. Maybe not as painful as say Red Zone Cuba, but just boring and cheap and forgettable. In fact, I watched both versions of this thing on a different box set a few years back and even after sitting through it twice that’s all I could remember about it.  But man are those perfectly wacky moments worth the confusing chain of events, stupid double crosses, worthless characters that add nothing to anything, and horribly weak ending.
It’s really the guy that plays Hitler that makes it so awesome. When we first meet him he’s shouting at his superiors and gesturing like he’s got some kind of nerve problem.  Then when he’s just a head he does almost nothing but make shifty eyes and twitch his facial muscles like…he has some kind of nerve problem. Maybe the actor really did? I can’t think of another way to explain his performance but it’s brilliantly cracked.
And then there’s the part where they pick him by attaching little freaking handles to his jar and then put him in the middle backseat of an automobile like he’s some kind of small child.  It’s in my top ten funniest things I’ve ever seen, along with that time in high school that my friend Laura ate a live June Bug and that part in Shakes the Clown where Shakes tells that snotty little kid off.

Yeah, I can’t really figure this movie out. It’s like it seriously wants to be Casablanca or some other WWII spy thriller but that doesn’t work when your script and plot ideas sound like they were spit out by your friend’s creepy uncle that sits alone all day in his basement and self publishes novels that nobody in their right mind would read…and then your snarky cousin stole one of his books and wrote a in part about Hitler’s head in a jar.  Who was this movie intended for? How did it get made? So many unanswered questions. Oh, and I’ve got another one: “why did I sit through this for the third time?”
Of course I know the answer to that one: because I am a sucker for punishment.  I did it all for a head in a jar.

Ratings: Actual movie: D-
The part where Hitler’s head shouts “Schnell, schnell!”: A++

Lessons this movie taught me

  • It is possible to be sitting next to a person when they get shot and have no idea it just happened. (Silencers do not work that way!)
  • The proper way to dispose of a body is to shove it in a phone booth.
  • It’s okay to have sex with a dude you just met like two days ago as long as you’re married first.
  • The right way to deal with getting caught up in convoluted schemes to destroy the world that involve people getting shot, your friends turning out to be Nazis, and dictators in Tupperware containers is with a cheerful smile and a can-do attitude.
  • A woman can only take so much death and contrived plot twists before she snaps and starts randomly screaming. The proper way to deal with this is to slap her across the face and take her back to the car.
  • And lastly, the most important lesson of all: Hitler’s head is made of wax and looks damn cool when it is on fire. Mein Fuhrer! I can melt!