Release Date(s)1983 (August 29, 2017)
Studio(s)Warner Bros. (Warner Archive Collection)
- Film/Program Grade: A-
- Video Grade: A
- Audio Grade: A-
- Extras Grade: D
Throughout the 1980s and into the 1990s, Steve Martin made a slew of comedy films that ranged from the ordinary to the absurd. Many of his all-time best were among those made with director Carl Reiner, including The Jerk, Dead Men Don’t Wear Plaid, All of Me, and today’s item, The Man with Two Brains. One part spoof, one part science fiction, and one part romantic comedy, the film managed to rake in a little over $10 million at the box office, but has remained a cult classic since it originally hit cable and home video.
A two-timing, money-hungry seductress (Kathleen Turner) lands upon a brilliant but recently widowed brain surgeon named Dr. Hfuhruhurr (Steve Martin), who also happens to be the sole beneficiary of a large inheritance. After quickly marrying him, things are soon rocky between them, especially after the good doctor discovers a kooky scientist (David Warner) and his hidden laboratory that is filled with human brains being kept alive in jars. When one of the brains begins to speak to Dr. Hfuhruhurr, he soon realizes that there’s more to a woman than just her body.
In The Man with Two Brains, Steve Martin and his co-stars are in top form. Whether he’s stroking a Barbie doll claiming it to be a statue of his dead wife or placing wax lips on a brain in a jar and kissing it, he is consistently hilarious. His ability to be both wacky and straight, sometimes all in one go, makes lines like “The only time we doctors should accept death is when it’s caused by our own incompetence!” seem easy to sell. Kathleen Turner, the foil to Dr. Hfuhruhurr’s happiness, is at the height of her 1980s hotness, using it to great advantage in this film. You totally buy her as a sexy, man-eating gold digger, but the playful nature of the film means you never fully grow to dislike her. And while the absurdist humor is the main draw, the film also has genuine heart to it, in a way that evens out some of the more over-the-top moments. It’s also ridiculously quotable, and holds up remarkably well many years after its release.
Previously available in a full screen DVD presentation only, having The Man with Two Brains make the jump to widescreen Blu-ray is quite a satisfying thing. Warner Archive’s presentation is heads and tails over its standard definition counterpart in every possible way. Grain management is well-handed, giving an evenly-distributed and filmic presentation that, although is a tad soft, looks sharper and more precise than ever. Even some of the film’s gags that require optical effects blend in better than most films from this period. Fine detail, whether it’s the walls of the laboratory (paper thin as they are), Kathleen Turner’s gorgeous outfits, or the medical equipment in the operating room (“Get that cat out of here!”), is abundant. The color palette, while giving off satisfactory skin tones, tends to be slightly flat from time to time. Spurts of color do crop up occasionally, such as Dr. Hfuhruhurr’s boat ride with his brain in a jar companion surrounded by lush greenery. Black levels are mostly deep with strong shadow detail on display while overall contrast and brightness levels are agreeable. It’s also a stable presentation with little to no film damage leftover. The sole audio option available in an English 2.0 mono DTS-HD track. Although the film doesn’t have much of a sound design to it as it relies mostly on dialogue, occasional bursts of clean sound effects do pop up, such as the scene in which Dr. Hfuhruhurr is being chased through the hotel. The dialogue itself is discernible throughout, and the score comes through clearly as well. It’s a mostly a narrow presentation, but with a slight bite to it overall. Subtitles in English SDH are available, but the only extra available is the film’s theatrical trailer.
As someone who isn’t much of a fan of many modern comedies, The Man with Two Brains is a prime example of why. You have a comedian at the top of his game, a director who knows what to do with him, and actual scripted jokes, relying less on ad-libbing and more on constructed humor. There’s also a story with characters that you like and care about as well. It’s all a part of why we still want to see these films and revisit them with some regularity. Thankfully, the folks at Warner Archive have put together a nice-looking presentation of the film, and despite not being loaded with extras, just having it in such high quality is reason enough to pick it up. Highly recommended.
- Tim Salmons