We’ve done a bunch of ‘best ever’ articles here on T8MC, mainly because we are FICKLE as hell but this one is even a surprise to me. You see, I’ve always considered Stir Crazy to be the the best comedy film ever made, but The Man With Two Brains (1983) was on TV the other day and even though I’m very familiar with the movie, this was the first time I had watched it since starting T8MC and with more discerning eyes, it became apparent that The Man With Two Brains is the best pure comedy movie ever made. Here’s why.
The film itself is about a cutting-edge brain surgeon, Dr. Michael Hfuhruhurr (Steve Martin) who runs over the beautiful sociopath Dolores Benedict (Kathleen Turner) and performs brain surgery to save her life. They marry afterwards, although she is only after his money, but the unhappy marriage is tested right away by her evil mindgames. In an effort to improve things, they go on honeymoon to Vienna where the doctor meets Dr. Alfred Necessiter who is working on a controversial brain transplant procedure.
At his lab, Dr. Hfuhruhurr hears a voice and starts having a conversation with Anne Uumellmahaye, a disembodied brain living in a jar (voiced by an uncredited Sissy Spacek). They fall in love and when Dolores’ sinister plans are revealed, the doctor looks to get divorced and put Anne’s brain in a new body. How’s that for a plot!?
1. The competition. Stir Crazy, Ghostbusters, Weird Science, Big Trouble in Little China. These are all great films but at some stage, the comedy takes a step back for the story and action. The Man With Two Brains doesn’t do this. Every time a joke happens, there is never more than a minute before the next one. It’s just a relentless comedy juggernaut.
2. Much like Eddie Murphy, it’s almost hard to remember that at one point Steve Martin was devastatingly funny. This is clearly his best ever role too. He plays it straight, much like Leslie Nielsen (Naked Gun, Airplane), but mixes a flawless delivery, impeccable comic timing and some unbelievable physical comedy all to impressive effect. His turn as Dr. Michael Hfuhruhurr is so full of jokes, it’s almost exhausting trying to keep up.
3. When Dr. Hfuhruhurr asks his dead wife for advice.
4. Steve Martin’s deadpan delivery is never better than when he speaks to this little girl just after he knocks over Kathleen Turner.
Dr. Michael Hfuhruhurr: Little girl.
Little Girl: Yes sir.
Dr. Michael Hfuhruhurr: I want you to do something very important, alright?
Little Girl: OK.
Dr. Michael Hfuhruhurr: I want you to run home and I want you to call the E.R. of North Bank General Hospital, 932-1000. Tell them to set up OR6 immediately and contact anesthesiologist Isadore Turek 472-2112 beep 12. Have him send an ambulance with a paramedic crew, light IV, D5NW-KVO. You got it?
7. Kathleen Turner, aside from being about as beautiful as it is possible to get, puts in a killer performance too. This balcony scene is incredible but it’s the little line at 48 seconds that gets us. As deadpan as anything Steve Martin delivers in the movie and is as funny as it is subtle.
8. Dr. Michael Hfuhruhurr: I got you something.
Dolores: The Complete Poems of John Lillison, England’s greatest one-armed poet.
Dr. Michael Hfuhruhurr: He wrote ‘In Dillman’s Grove’ and ‘Pointy Birds.’ O pointy birds, o pointy pointy, anoint my head, anointy-nointy.
9. The entire sequence where Dr Hfuhruhurr is frustrated at work because Delores and him haven’t consumated their marriage. It’s about as good as physical comedy gets.
And there you have it. Ten entirely good reasons why The Man With Two Brains is now our favourite comedy movie of the Eighties (and therefore the best comedy movie ever). It’s a shame that Steve Martin never reached these comedic heights again but at least Kathleen Turner stayed awesome when she went on to do Romancing The Stone just a year later.