Man with the Screaming Brain

(2005) *** Unrated
90 min. Anchor Bay Entertainment. Cast: Bruce Campbell.

In the grand tradition of They Saved Hitler's Brain and The Thing with Two Heads comes Man with the Screaming Brain. The difference between Bruce Campbell's new film and those dubious classics of bad science-fiction is that Campbell is trying to be bad for comedic effect. Man with the Screaming Brain is proudly stupid and cheesy as all get-out, but that's what makes it fun.

Campbell, best-known for the Evil Dead films, is the Shatner of his generation, and as writer, director, and star he doesn't disappoint. He plays William Cole, a capitalist in Bulgaria to "diversify" with foreign investments. But wouldn't you know it? He ends up dead, and reanimated with the brain of an ex-KGB taxi driver sewn into his skull, thanks to mad scientist Stacy Keach. Together, the men's hemispheres must solve their own murder.

Campbell cheekily positions Cole as an anti-heroic American monster made more human by his "monstrous" reanimation: yes, Man with the Screaming Brain truly is one man's journey of self-discovery, culminating in a line bound to make you laugh or cry (or both): "I'm sorry for every mean thing I ever said or did to you." In a running gag, the taxi driver nicknames Cole using American icons of conquest, danger, and aggression (in business, crime, politics, or sex): John Wayne, Roy Rogers, Donald Trump, Humphrey Bogart.

Of course, Campbell is his own kind of cult icon, and he plays his loyal audience like a fiddle, pairing Sam Raimi's younger brother Ted (a fixture since the Evil Dead days) with Keach to make an unholy but consistently amusing double act. The All of Me plot conceit ends up being not very friendly to women, whether it's Cole's bitch-on-wheels wife or a femme fatale gypsy, but there's some sci-fi redemption for one of the two.

Despite some slow patches, this is pretty uproarious stuff, filled with the stuff of bad movies: cranial scars; a robot in a yellow jumpsuit; gypsy thugs; catfights; Ted Raimi doing hip-hop; a mauve, tasseled Vespa; and a salad bar. Oh, and it's shot entirely on location in Bulgaria. C'mon: you know you want it.

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