The most remarkable and bizarre flying heads and floating heads in cinematic history are examined…
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The article contains spoilers for Prometheus and The Brain from the Planet Arous.
All kinds of disembodied heads and floating brains have found their way into the movie over the years for no apparent reason. There are lots of decapitations in the movies (from Japanese samurai epics to current slasher scares), but this is not one of them.
No, we’re referring to films in which brains and heads are shoved into enormous stone things and still remain conscious. They’re a surprise prevalent occurrence in movies, whether for funny or shocking impact. This list includes some of our favorites, but you’re bound to have a few of your own. Enjoy!
1. The Brain from the Planet Arous (1957)
The Brain from the Planet Arous delivers on its title’s promise with a giant extraterrestrial brain—a criminal brain no less—that travels to Earth to use its telepathic powers to control the inhabitants. Gor, the alien’s brain, takes control of a nuclear physicist named Steve and transforms him into a raunchy “ordinary caveman” under its influence. Gor burns up an airplane in mid-flight, kills a sheriff, and threatens to wipe out entire cities with Steve as his puppet.
People on Earth will be grateful for the arrival of another another brilliant mind from the planet Arous. In order to prevent Gor from destroying anything else, Vol has taken up residence in a dog’s body.
Steve finally gets his revenge on Gor in a final, epic battle at the end of the film. He destroys the wicked brain with an axe he grabbed from a nearby tree. One of the funniest combat scenes in movie history occurs at this point, thanks to a combination of performance, amazing effects, and exuberant soundtrack. Although it has a greater intellect, the wicked brain is defeated.
When Steve’s wife claims that a talking dog saved their marriage, despite everything else he has witnessed (exploding planes, floating brains), Steve still refuses to believe her. In his voice, he scolds “you women and your imaginings.” Disgraceful woman.
2. The Thing That Couldn’t Die (1958)
When a psychic adolescent girl warns an adult group not to dig for gold beneath a tree, The Thing That Couldn’t Die opens to significantly less intrigue than its title suggests. “You’re all nasty!,” she yells at them as they continue to excavate. I pray for your demise! As a joke, I wish a tree fell on you!
An astonishing thing happens right after that: A tree falls and kills someone!
Unfazed, the team continues excavating and ultimately uncovers a 15th-century iron coffer. They discover a sorcerer’s disembodied head, which is still alive and well. Head’s abilities are unleashed when the lid is open, and it begins to influence those it comes into contact with, forcing them to murder each other in remarkably simple ways.
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There’s no doubt in the psychic teenager’s mind that the scowling head in her box is bad, and she uses an ancient talisman to end its life with the help of all her logical abilities. It was pointed out long ago by Mystery Science Theater that that wonderful title is a complete fabrication.
The Thing That Wouldn’t Die, a lackluster 1950s B-movie, is at least made memorable by the disembodied head’s uncanny resemblance to Vincent Price.
3. Fiend Without a Face (1958)
If Fiend Without a Face is the best movie ever made about a disembodied brain, it may be because it is so violent that it was mentioned in the British Parliament upon its initial release. This low-budget film’s monsters are largely hidden until they are ultimately revealed as floating cerebras with snail horns and a dangling spinal column in the final reel, by filmmaker Arthur Crabtree.
In the end, valiant Major Cummings and his comrades gun down the fleshy fiends mercilessly in a spray of sticky gore, bringing the film to a close. A heavily fortified Air Force base will teach those pesky aliens a lesson.
4. They Saved Hitler’s Brain (1968)
“They Saved Hitler’s Brain” has been spoofed numerous times since its release, most prominently in The Simpsons, but also as the title for a series of Superman comic books (“They Saved Luthor’s Brain”). Perhaps Dennis Potter’s final television series, Cold Lazarus, was based on this movie, which depicts a dismembered head (Albert Finney) thawing out in the distant future.
As recently as earlier this year, the second season of Psychoville appeared to pay homage to They Saved Hitler’s Brain, with a plot that featured the revived head of a Nazi war criminal, played by Steve Pemberton. For Futurama, the heads in jars method of slipping in famous cameos has been used for years.
Consider how insulting the original film was, and you’ll see how flattering these all are. In order to resuscitate Hitler’s head using strange scientific methods, the Nazis smuggle it to South America, where it causes all sorts of implausible havoc.
The film is widely regarded as one of the worst ever created since it was made up of footage shot seven years apart. It’s worth the price of admission only to see an actor impersonating Adolf Hitler in a huge jar. The side parting, on the other hand, is stunning.
5. Zardoz (1974)
For two reasons, Zardoz, the bizarre sci-fi fiction by John Boorman, will likely live in infamy. On top of that, Sean Connery wears nothing but a little pair of red pyjamas for the whole of this film.
A post-apocalyptic future inspired by HG Wells’ The Time Machine, but through a 70s haze of drugs, disco, and fondue. When an elite group of humans known as the Eternals rules the world from their floating stone head and occasionally spews out enormous torrents of guns, the Brutals or Exterminators, which Connery plays, have a mustache and are known as the Exterminators.
As a result, the Eternals utilize weaponry to keep their slaves occupied when they are not supplying their owners with a regular supply of grain. (“It’s a nice gun.”) soaring head grumbles: “The penis is nasty.”)
As strange as it seems, it’s only for the first few minutes. Connery’s appearance in one of the huge stone heads, which he steals, propels the story into a bizarre new dimension. Where he works, his bosses treat him like a toy, lazing around like it’s the end of the world. To make matters worse, he’s forced to watch videos of ladies engaging in mud wrestling before going blind under a weaver’s loom, being attacked by elderly people, and eventually being saddled with a carthorse.
6. Alien (1979)
It’s easy to forget how shocking Alien originally was after 35 years and innumerable re-runs on television. In addition to John Hurt giving birth to a shrieking creature that looks like the offspring of a skinned ferret and the member of a horse, there’s the shocking revelation that Ash (Ian Holm), the ship’s science officer, is in fact a robot. Only after Parker (Yaphet Kotto) hits him over the head with a fire extinguisher does Ash reveal his true identity.
Ridley Scott observes that the moment has enough drive and shock value that the uneven quality of the physical effects are barely a distraction.. The sight of Ash’s disembodied skull on a table, surrounded by tangles of internal wire and white gunk, is also enticing to the viewer. Ash is just as detached and passive-aggressive as he was before. The man responds with a gloomy smile, “I can’t lie about your odds. But you have my sympathies.”
7. The Thing (1982)
Only Rob Bottin’s realistic effects in 1982’s The Thing can be compared to any other picture since then. “Who Goes There” director John Carpenter stated that he didn’t want his monster to be just another monster in a suit when he started working on this fresh adaptation of the novella. Rob Bottin’s ingenuity helped Carpenter achieve exactly what he desired.
The Thing’s alien shape-shifter is a powerful and frightening foe, capable of taking on the appearance of any living thing, human or otherwise. It’s possible for a seemingly normal dog to develop enormous tentacles out of nowhere. You never know when a nice coworker will grow snapping jaws. MacReady (Kurt Russell) and his colleagues are forced to confront the possibility that this monstrosity may be any of them, or worse, all of them.