Cult-beloved thesp Bruce Campbell's feature directorial debut, "The Man With the Screaming Brain," is an amiable goof that looks like it was cobbled together in a hurry, on a shoestring. Bulgaria-shot silliness has Frankenstein-like hijinks wreaking havoc with characters and their body parts during hectic days in fictive city Bravoda (actually Sofia). Campbell's current book tour could afford occasion for one-shot bigscreen dates, but that and genre fests aside, item will definitely look more at home on the small screen.

This review was corrected on June 20, 2005.

Cult-beloved thesp Bruce Campbell’s feature directorial debut, “The Man With the Screaming Brain,” is an amiable goof that looks like it was cobbled together in a hurry, on a shoestring. Bulgaria-shot silliness has Frankenstein-like hijinks wreaking havoc with characters and their body parts during hectic days in fictive city Bravoda (actually Sofia). Campbell’s current book tour could afford occasion for one-shot bigscreen dates, but that and genre fests aside, vid-shot item will definitely look more at home on the small screen.

Helmer/co-scenarist, who’s started to cut a burlier figure in middle age, plays archetypal ugly American William Cole. The pharmaceutical CEO has reluctantly dragged himself and fed-up trophy wife Jackie (Antoinette Byron) to Bravoda to diversify his company’s holdings.

While William goes off to meet with city officials, Jackie ostensibly shops and goes sightseeing with Yegor (local 1980s star Vladimir Kolev), the hunky chauffeur, and ends up making Yegor and the taxi’s back seat her principal tourist destination.

Meanwhile, mad scientist type Dr. Ivan Ivanov (Stacy Keach) and his hip-hop-obsessed, halfwit flunky Pavel (Ted Raimi) have nearly completed DNA experiments that could ensure risk-free organ transplants.

Enter alluring but crazy Roma woman Tatoya (Tamara Gorski), a hotel maid who wants William to be her new man, and soon William, Yegor and Jackie end up in the possession of Ivanov and company. Subsequent transplant surgeries result in William sharing his body with fellow brain-inhabitant Yegor, while Jackie’s consciousness is placed in a break-dancing robot.

Script feels very casually slung together, with situations of varying inspiration and development allowing room for some improv. Presentation is mediocre, with production design sharply limited beyond existing locations, and indifferent lensing.

Result is a comedy that doesn’t build, lacks structural integrity, and often falls flat. But it’s also winningly loopy, with bizarre incidental ideas and performance riffing making for a series of parts that almost make up for the faults of the whole.

Larkish spirit of the enterprise is contagious. Clearly having the time of their lives are Keach and Raimi. Raimi and co-writer David M. Goodman are Campbell confederates going all the way back to the original “Evil Dead” 25 years ago.

Man with the Screaming Brain

Production

A Sci-Fi Channel presentation of a FWE Picture Co. and ApolloProScreen production in association with Creative Light Entertainment. Produced by Bruce Campbell, Jeff Franklin, David M. Goodman, Bob Perkis. Executive producers, Sven Clement, Jan Korbelin, Philip von Albenslaven, Jorg Westerkamp, Thomas Becker, Scott Zakarin, Rich Tackenberg, Peter Jaysen. Directed by Bruce Campbell. Screenplay, Campbell, David M. Goodman.

Crew

Camera (color), David Worth; editor, Shawn Paper; music, Joseph LoDuca; production designer, George Costello; art director, Ognian Ognianov; set decorator, Kristian Stoyanov; sound, Jaime Lin; special effects makeup, Melanie Tooker; assistant director, Tiny Wright. Reviewed at Another Hole in the Head Film Festival, San Francisco, June 9, 2005. Running time: 89 MIN.

With

Bruce Campbell, Ted Raimi, Antoinette Byron, Tamara Gorski, Remington Franklin, Stacy Keach, Vladimir Kolev, Velizar Binev, Todor Nikolov, Jonas Talkington, Raicho Vasilev.
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