PURE TERROR MONTH: They Saved Hitler’s Brain (1968)… or The Madmen of Mandoras (1963)

Thanks to Dustin Fallon from Horror and Sons for this entry. He’s always been a big promoter of our site and has been instrumental when it comes to getting writers for this project. Plus, he’s one hell of a nice guy. 

They Saved Hitler’s Brain is a 1968 film directed by David Bradley, who also directed 2 well-known films starring Burt Lancaster, “Peer Gynt” and “Julius Caesar”.

You know what? Strike that last sentence.

The Madmen of Mandoras is a 1963 film from director David Bradley, who also directed 2 well-known films starring Burt Lancaster, “Peer Gynt” and “Julius Caesar”. They Saved Hitler’s Brain is really just the same damned movie, re-titled for television distribution in 1968 and featuring new footage shot specifically for its broadcast re-release.

The new footage, which is essentially an entirely new opening for the film, is a bunch of muddled nonsense that attempts to expand upon the original film’s plot, but in truth adds nothing of value or importance to the film, and actually slows down the film’s pacing. The film opens with a scientist who has been working on a secret government project to create a serum for the deadly chemical weapon known as “G-gas” (which the government fears may be used as a weapon by hostile countries) being blown to bits when he triggers a bomb connected to his car. A government agent, who looks suspiciously like Hall of Fame closer Dennis Eckersley, is assigned to the case.

The opening moments of The Madmen of Mandoras are edited into this new footage through the use of some rather abrupt and jarring transitions, with the difference in film quality immediately apparent. These scenes highlight a military briefing on the lethal “G-Gas”, where it is stated that the antidote must remain well guarded, as its falling into the wrong hands could have dire consequences for the entire world. Of course, this just means that a scientist working on the antidote is soon captured by agents of the surviving Third Reich!

They Saved Hitler’s Brain attempts to add some additional action to its runtime by meshing footage from the original film with the newly created scenes so that it appears that Eckersley and his new female partner are trying to thwart the abduction. However, both agents fail to do so and are killed for their efforts, saving viewers the nightmare of dealing with them any longer. This, in essence, wraps up the “Hilter’s Brain” portion of this review, as well as the newly created portions of the film. Now, forget they ever happened because they are total shit!

As for the real film, The Madmen of Mandoras….

Near the end of WWII, Nazi scientists discover a means of preserving the life of Adolph Hitler into perpetuity, allowing the man to continue his plans for world domination for years to come. Well, at least his severed head is preserved, severed from his body and placed into a small glass tank filled with various “life-sustaining” fluids. A decoy of the Fuhrer is left behind to deceive the Allied forces into believing that the madman had been killed and his plans for domination thwarted. The surviving officers of the Reich, with Hitler’s head in tow, flee to the fictional South American island nation of Mandoras, where they secretly plan their next steps.

Years pass and with the creation of the G-gas weapon, the Nazis have found the key to their resurgence. The only thing standing in their way is the antidote, which counters the gas’s effects, should it ever be released. As such, Nazi agents are sent to America with orders to abduct a certain Professor John Coleman, one of the scientists working on the serum. However, the government of Mandoras is not without knowledge of the Nazi’s schemes and have sent their own agent to prevent the plan from succeeding.

The Mandorian (Is that the correct terminology for the natives of this tiny fictional country?) agent fails and Coleman is taken despite his interference. Also captured are Coleman’s youngest daughter, Suzanne, and her boyfriend, David. The next intended target is Coleman’s son-in-law, Phil Day, who works for US intelligence. Granted, they weren’t intelligent enough to predict an incident such as this, or Coleman would have had some sort of security detail. The Mandorian agent prevents Phil and his wife’s abduction, but is shot and killed in the process. However, as this is a movie, the man is able to disclose the entire elaborate conspiracy to Phil before he expires.

Phil and his wife, Kathy, soon board a flight to Mandoras. Upon landing, the couple are “greeted” by the island nation’s police force, which in this case is just Creature From the Black Lagoon co-star Nestor Paiva and his seemingly slow-witted assistant. The couple are treated as “special guests” of the nation, even though no one should have known that they were visiting, and are shown to the island’s finest hotel. Okay, so it’s the only hotel.

Not long after settling into the hotel room, the Days’ are shocked to find a man sneaking into their room, despite their still being in it at the time. After a brief scuffle, the man is introduced as “Camino”, the twin brother of the Mandorian agent killed in America. Camino discloses that he, like his late brother, are working to stop the Nazi resurgence. He warns the couple that many nefarious eyes are now watching them and that danger can wait around any corner.

Essentially ignoring this warning, Phil and Kathy head out to a small local bar. There, they find Suzanne dancing away to the brass band that is playing. Suzanne informs her sister that the men that kidnapped her were quite friendly, which really doesn’t seem like the actions and behavior of a group known for their acts of genocide. Suzanne is also not aware of David’s whereabouts, but she also doesn’t seem overly concerned either. The good nature of the Nazis is proven untrue when a failed attempt on Phil’s life leaves another man dead and a dancer with a bullet in her side. After the dust has settled, Phil notices that Kathy and Suzanne are no longer in the bar. Making matters worse, Phil is arrested before he can even begin to search for the women.

Phil is escorted to the Mandoras’ presidential palace, which the Nazis have overtaken to use as their new base of operations. Phil is placed into a jail cell, where not only Kathy and Suzanne await, but Professor Coleman as well. David resurfaces, revealing himself to be a Nazi officer who has been involved in the plot for quite some time, brutally bitch-slapping Suzanne when she confronts him. However, the incarceration proves to be brief when Paiva and the nation’s president appear to release the captives, disclosing that they’ve secretly been fighting against the Nazi insurgence.

Hitler’s severed head finally makes its grand entrance, leading his forces as they prepare their bombers for a worldwide G-gas attack. This plan doesn’t get very far though, as Phil, Camino, and the rest of the men launch an all-out assault on the small, single-engine plane that is actually shown. I did mention that this was a low-budget film, right? You won’t be seeing much more than stock footage of bombers. Here, you’ll just get a Cessna.

As one might expect, the heroes win, preventing the world from falling into the hands of the Third Reich. What you might not expect, especially from a film of this age, is the grisly closing image of Hitler’s disembodied head, here portrayed by a wax mold, gruesomely melted away by flames. While it is quite evident that the head is indeed wax, it’s still fairly gnarly watching the wax melt away like layers of skin and flesh from the skull-shaped creation. In fact, the scene was deemed disturbing enough to viewers that it had to be (marginally) edited down for the television re-issue.

The Madmen of Mandoras, or They Saved Hitler’s Brain, or whatever you choose to call it is a fun slice of pro-American/anti-Nazi propaganda layered in a healthy dose of 1940’s/50’s era comics “pulp”, and sprinkled with a pinch of early 60’s pop culture sensibility. It doesn’t require a lot of thought and generally moves at a steady pace, although the footage added to the television re-release does make the first half of the film drag noticeably. The film feels more than a little dated by today’s standards, but still provides some solid entertainment for a rainy weekend afternoon or one of those nights when you’re just not sure why you are even still awake.

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