It is 1983, Steve Martin had just made Dead Men Don’t Wear Plaid (directed by Carl Reiner– don’t worry we will get to that one) and the he again teams up with Reiner to make The Man With Two Brains. Before making the Reiner movies, Martin already had a solid reputation as an American comic. Contrary to popular belief, he was never a cast member of Saturday Night Live, rather he guest-hosted the show 15 times. On the show, Martin popularized the air quotes gesture using four fingers to make double quote marks in the air to symbolize the questioning the veracity of some statement in a droll way. Moreover, Martin and Dan Aykroyd played “Georgi” and “Yortuk” the Festrunk Brothers, a couple of inept Czechoslovak would-be playboys popularizing the phrase I am a couple of “Wild and Crazy Guys.” Since it was the old days, Martin really earned his fame through his albums (much like Richard Pryor) several went platinum and “Wild and Crazy Guy” topped out at number 2 on the American Billboard Charts.
Recently Martin (at age 67) became the father of a baby girl naming her ‘Conquistador’ to “Avoid Those Weird Hollywood Names.” On Letterman Martin said the name made a “statement,” I agree it sure does. I believe his most recent movie “The Big Year” was released in 2011. Despite Martin’s genius (he is also an accomplished author, tv & film writer—authoring for instance The Jerk) he has made some pretty dreadful films. Sargent Bilko, the Pink Panther—both one and two-as well as Cheaper by the Dozen—again one and two—simply were not good movies (in my opinion of course). Martin is also an avid art collector owning works by artists Roy Lichtenstein, Pablo Picasso, David Hockney, and Edward Hopper just to name a few. In 2006, he sold Hopper’s famous Hotel Window (1955) at Sotheby’s for $26.8 million. Those are some big names for big bucks.
Now on to the film.
The Man with Two Brains features Steve Martin (until then) some would say at his zany best. Playing Dr. Michael Hfuhruhurr, he is a smug but brilliant surgeon, and is being interviewed by some prestigious journal. As a surgeon, Hfuhruhurr pioneered a radical medical technique the proverbial cranial screw-job method. Hfuhruhurr—a name gag that runs through the entire film—is still grief-stricken over death of his wife Rebecca. While driving and being interviewed Martin hits the hot Dolores Benedict (Kathleen Turner) with his car and naturally he’s the only man on the planet who can (and does) save her life.
Dolores is an ardent gold-digger. Recently cut out of her most recent victim’s will, she’s on the prowl for a new chump and, from a hospital bed, Hfuhruhurr is the best prospect. After some finger-sucking, Hfuhruhurr is caught in the gorgeous, sexy and deadly black widow’s web. However Dolores is just a tease, denying Hfuhruhurr consummation of their marriage while happily playing with the gardener. Naturally stressed by her sexual manipulation, Hfuhruhurr goes on a honeymoon to Austria.
Austria turns out to be a very bizarre place. The elevator doesn’t hit the bottom floor, so Hfuhruhurr has to climb out halfway down. There’s also a mysterious Elevator Killer (Merv Griffin) that kills people before they reach the top floor. There’s a secret laboratory located in an average looking condominium on the outside, but inside is a classic European mad scientist castle. There, behind paper thin walls a Dr. Necessiter (David Warner) is conducting the weirdest experiments ever by keeping several live brains in jars though their bodies are dead.
Hfuhruhurr is in heaven and develops a telepathic connection with brain number 21 Ann Uumellmahaye (not credited Sissy Spacek). Hfuhruhurr literally dumps Dolores into a pile of crap making a “citizen’s divorce.” Unfortunately Uumellmahaye’s brain is deteriorating fast, Necessiter and has only been able to transfer people into apes to which Hfuhruhurr famously replies “I can’t fuck a gorilla.”
Thanks to the elevator killer, who uses Windex to murder his victims, Hfuhruhurr and Necessiter manage to get Uumellmahaye into Dolores’s body who turns the sexy femme fatale into a blimp because she is a compulsive eater, he loves her for who she is not what she looks like. Presumably, after he agonizes while carrying her over the threshold, they live happily ever after.
The Man With Two Brains is not a bad film. It manages to maintain the running gags throughout the movie. The comedy is amusing rather than doubled over funny as this is a lighter comedy. Turner does a magnificent job of playing the proverbial black widow; her lines are both hysterical and infuriating. She could not have done a better job. If you were following Martin’s trail of films you would see that he is becoming more comfortable on camera making The Man With Two Brains a pleasant movie.