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The Man With Two Brains

Year: 1983
Studio: Warner Bros
Director: Carl Reiner
Writer: Carl Reiner/Steve Martin
Cast: Steve Martin, Kathleen Turner, David Warner, James Cromwell, Merv Griffin, Sissy Spacek
Way back before Steve Martin settled in the Long Night of the Boring Family Comedy, he was the 1980s equivalent of an edgy comedian (sample line; 'I can't fuck a gorilla').

And this film was the best example of the persona Martin crafted perfectly over his career, the fake arrow through the head from his stand-up act writ large, where every nuance is straight out of the theatre of the absurd and each joke is more ridiculous than the next. And all the while - like Peter Graves and Leslie Neilson in the Flying High movies - Martin's the straight man to so much tomfoolery going on around him, never breaking a sweat.

Just watch him in action. When sainted-devil wife Dolores (Turner) snaps 'what are those assholes doing on the porch', he adopts a patient teachers tone to tell her 'they're pronounced azaleas'. Watch as he tells the guy in the car next to him that he's over the death of his wife Rebecca and proceeds to punch the steering wheel in tears, crying 'Why? Why? Why?' Witness the three day growth on his face when he wakes with Dolores still in his arms on the threshold, a moment he wants to last forever and which the maid is bringing him photos of that have been developed and come back from the store.

Dozens of throwaway gags delivered with such deadpan such as 'what time are you scheduled to have your hands removed from your face?' will make you realise you're in the hands of a comic master. For that reason, Martin is half of one of comedy's great unfilmed partnerships along with Bill Murray.

And last but not least there's the name, Dr Michael Hfuhruhurr. As a pioneering brain surgeon and inventor of the 'screwtop technique', he's never quite got over the death of his wife Rebecca. Enter gold-digging vixen Dolores, fresh from screwing her last rich husband out of his money and setting herself up to target Michael.

When the two get married and travel to Vienna for a conference, Michael becomes mixed up with the enigmatic doctor Necessitor (Warner) whose condo is uniquely kitted out as a medieval castle and has a collection of brains to make Hfuhruhurr envious, especially when he discovers he can communicate telepathically with one of them, Anne Uumellmahaye (Spacek) and falls in love all over again.

Necessitor gets his brains from Europe's most notorious serial murderer, the elevator killer (in reality 80s variety show host Merv Griffin), and the race is one to get Anne's brain into Dolores' killer body before anyone finds out or it all descends into mayhem.

A comedy classic of the sort even Martin himself doesn't do anymore.

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