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Film / The Man with Two Brains

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German Detective: You're playing God!
Dr. Michael Hfuhruhurr: Somebody's got to!

A 1983 sci-fi comedy film directed by Carl Reiner and starring Steve Martin as Dr. Michael Hfuhruhurr (it's pronounced exactly how it's spelled), a brilliant but arrogant neurosurgeon newly married to a monstrous gold-digging Black Widow (Kathleen Turner), who belatedly meets and falls in love with his soulmate, Anne Uumellmahaye (Sissy Spacek), whose one tiny defect is that she's a disembodied brain inside a jar. Hfuhruhurr naturally tries to find a body into which he can transplant her, and Hilarity Ensues. (No, really!)

Like all of Martin's early movie work, it's pretty much gag-a-minute, with two particular highlights being Hfuhruhurr facing the world's strictest drunk-driving test, and the identity of The Elevator Killer.

This film provides examples of:

  • Actor Allusion: Kathleen Turner did this film right after Body Heat, and her role as Femme Fatale Dolores clearly references it, right down to recreating that film's finger-sucking scene.
  • Affably Evil: Dr. Necessiter is a Mad Scientist who works with a Serial Killer, but you can't deny he's perfectly friendly to Michael. The same goes for the Elevator Killer, real name Merv Griffin.
  • Affectionate Parody: A modern-day take on Gothic Horror.
  • And I Must Scream: Since she lacks a body, let alone sensory organs, Anne can't see, hear, feel, or sense anything at all aside from Hfuhruhurr's voicenote . It's no small miracle she remained sane! Now consider all the brains Necessiter keeps in jars...
  • Asshole Victim: After all the atrocities Dolores has carried out over the course of the film, the Elevator Killer dispatches her in the elevator, thereby saving Michael the bother of killing someone himself to transplant Anne into their body.
  • Audience Murmurs: After Michael makes his big announcement, the Viennese audience gasps and murmurs in astonishment:
    Michael: What are they saying?
    Dr. Conrad: They are just saying 'murmur, murmur, murmur.'
    Michael: You mean it's just sort of a general murmur?
    Dr. Conrad: Yeah. Murmur.
    Michael: Oh. [to the crowd] You may murmur all you like —
    Crowd: [loudly] Murmur, murmur, murmur, murmur, murmur.
  • Bait-and-Switch: Michael hears Anne calling for help in the night, and runs into Dr. Necessiter's laboratory to rescue her. When he sees what appears to be a gorilla speaking with Anne's voice, he tries to break it to her, but she notes that she doesn't feel like a gorilla- and then he finds out that Anne's jar is behind him, and the gorilla just happened to be moving its lips at the same time.
  • Big Eater: Anne — at least once she's got a body to do it with.
  • Bigger on the Inside: Subverted with Dr. Necessiter's apartment: it only looks bigger. Still almost no closet space.
  • Big "NO!": Hfuhruhurr's departed wife, after he asks a portrait of her for her disapproval in regards to his marriage to Dolores.
  • Brain in a Jar: Dr. Necessiter has an entire collection of these, thanks to his partnership with the Elevator Killer.
  • Brain Transplant: Michael Hfuhruhurr's goal for Anne, in order to make sure she doesn't die. He succeeds.
  • Brain Theft: Dr Necessiter opportunistically removes the brains of a serial killer's victims and keeps them alive in jars, later putting one in the head of a gorilla.
  • Bridal Carry: Dr. Hfuhruhurr does this twice.
    • The first time he does it with Dolores to carry her across the threshold. Except that he and his wife stay standing there until they get their pictures of that moment brought to them fully developed.
    • The second time he staggers when he carries Anne in Dolores' body across the threshold at the end.
  • Bunny-Ears Lawyer: Dr. Hfuhruhurr and his "screw top" method of brain surgery. He literally is wearing bunny ears at one point, but it's just a prank.
  • The Cameo: Merv Griffin as himself, who turns out to be the Elevator Killer.
  • Card-Carrying Villain: Dolores, right from the start, when she loves watching forehead veins throb.
  • Cargo Ship: In-Universe. A good and long part of the movie involves Hfuhruhurr trying to be romantic with Anne's Brain in a Jar, including taking her rowing and putting wax lips on the glass. It all stays PG, though.
  • Came Back Wrong: Necessiter's previous attempts to resurrect a brain-in-a-jar in a new living body. He probably shouldn't have tried to transplant a brilliant doctor into a gorilla...
  • Coitus Uninterruptus: Ramon the gardner walks in on Dolores having sex with Juan, his assistant.
    Dolores: (to Ramon) You're through!
    Juan: I don't think so.
    Dolores: Not you!
  • Comically Missing the Point: Fran says she doesn't mind Hfuhruhurr injecting her with window cleaner.
    Fran: Hey, what does it do anyway?
    Hfuhruhurr: It causes your brain to die last.
    Fran: I don't mind!
  • Companion Cube: Hfuhruhurr carries around a little Barbie doll representing his first, deceased wife, and often speaks to it as though it were really her. Anne's jar could also qualify.
  • Convenient Coma: After Hfuhruhurr nearly dies in the transplant procedure, he spends enough time in coma for Anne to get back on her feet in Dolores' body.
  • Covered in Mud: When Hfuhruhurr discovers the extent of Dolores' unfaithfulness he shoves her face-first into a suspiciously convenient puddle.
    Hfuhruhurr: Into the mud, scum queen!
  • Cranium Compartment: Dr Hfuhruhurr has developed the "cranial screwtop" method of accessing the brain, which consists of literally unscrewing the top of the patient's head.
  • Cute, but Cacophonic: Fran, a prostitute that Hfuhruhurr tried to kill so Anne could have her body. The look on Michael's face when she starts talking like a Little Rascal on helium cannot be described.
  • Evil Brit: Dr. Necessiter is English, and he's a Mad Scientist, but he downplays this, because he's not actually interested in doing evil.
  • Evilutionary Biologist: Downplayed. Necessiter, though his experiments are solely For Science!! instead of any actual evil, and he's completely unaware that (at least some of) his brains are still fully conscious.
  • The Faceless: Well, considering Anne's a disembodied brain, you only hear Sissy Spacek.
  • Failed a Spot Check: When Michael pleads with his deceased wife's portrait for a sign if he is making a mistake falling in love with Dolores. An earthquake splits down the house and the portrait starts spinning as he spirit repeatedly shouts "NO!" He acts like he does not notice any of it.
  • Fanservice Extra: Fran. She has a relatively small role, but not even her cacophonic voice is enough to wreck the fact that she's super-hot.
    Hfuhruhurr: Beautiful. Where can I see the rest of you?
    (Fran opens her coat to reveal her toplessness.)
    Hfuhruhurr: ...Mama!
  • Fat Suit: Turner dons one after Anne's been transplanted into Dolores' head.
  • Femme Fatale: Dolores to the point of (intentional) parody.
  • For the Evulz: Dolores loves to watch veins in foreheads throbbing.
  • The "Fun" in "Funeral": We see the dead body of Dolores' former husband being carried off on a stretcher under a white sheet by the police. Followed shortly by a separate stretcher for his poodle (which Dolores literally kicked to death).
  • Fun with Subtitles: Lampshaded. When the Austrian police realise that Hfuhruhurr speaks English, one of them asks for the subtitles to be turned off and notes that it's roomier without them.
  • Give Me a Sign: Hfuhruhurr asks the soul of his departed former wife for a little sign, even the smallest sign, that she disapproves his marriage to Dolores. After the entire house shakes and spectral voices wail "NOOOOOO!" and short out the lights for a minute or two, he decides that not getting even a little sign from her means she's OK with it. Later, he's slightly upset that she didn't give him any warning.
  • Gold Digger: Dolores, with a vengeance.
  • A God Am I: Hfuhruhurr gets a wee bit unhinged when in the midst of Anne's transplant procedure, trying to stop the police from interfering. When accused of playing God, he replies, "Somebody has to!"
  • Groin Attack: Hfuhruhurr does this to Dolores while they scuffle. He nails her right in the balls.
  • Heel Realization: Hfuhruhurr very nearly kills an innocent woman to use her body. He realizes he can't do it in the nick of time.
  • Homage: Donovan's Brain. It's Dr. Hfuhruhurr's favorite film, too. There's some The Brain That Wouldn't Die in the film as well.
  • Hypocrite: Dolores hates Mexicans (among other ethnic groups) but has no problem sleeping with the gardener.
  • Insufferable Genius:
    • Dr. Hfuhruhurr likes to brag Dolly Parton wants to have his baby.
      Dr. Hfuhruhurr: Would you read that back to me? I'm afraid that might make me sound pompous to your readers.
      Olsen: "My brilliant research in brain transplantation is unsurpassed, and will probably make my name live beyond eternity."
      Dr. Hfuhruhurr: Well, that's all right. Take out the "probably". It makes me sound wishy-washy.
    • Later:
      Dr. Hfuhruhurr: (mildly annoyed) I told him to take out the "probably".
  • Karma Houdini: The epilogue warns that Merv Griffin did not turn himself in, and is still at large as the Elevator Killer.
  • Kick the Dog: In her first appearance on-screen, Dolores feeds her elderly husband his own tropical fish just to torture him, and then when he vengefully orders his poodle to kill her before having a rage-induced heart attack, she literally kicks it to death.
  • Love Makes You Evil: Or at least willing to kill.
  • Mr. Fanservice: Juan, the gardening assistant. There's a reason he catches Dolores' eye.
  • Ms. Fanservice: In both instances, they're Played for Laughs.
    • Dolores. She's so hot, in a deleted scene she makes a bellhop instantly go through puberty.
    • Then there's Randi Brooks as Fran.
  • Ninja Prop: When Dr. Hfuhruhurr is driving to the lab with Dolores, he is pulled over by a policeman who speaks German to him, with English subtitles appearing in the middle of the screen. When the doctor replies in English, the policeman says, "Oh, you speak English?" He turns and calls offscreen, "You can stop the subtitles, now," adding, "That's better; we have more room down there, now!"
  • Non-Fatal Explosions: Combined with Soft Water, this happens to Hfuhruhurr after the Austrian police accidentally damage Dr. Necessiter's laboratory equipment.
  • Old-Fashioned Rowboat Date: Hfuhruhurr goes on one with Anne, putting a hat on her jar and some plastic lips. Then Dolores spots him through her binoculars.
  • Politically Incorrect Villain: Parodied when Dolores growls at Hfuhruhurr, "I'll get you for this, you nigger kike wop!" Since he's obviously not black- though he could possibly be of Jewish or Italian descent- she's most likely just saying this to be mean, and give the audience more reason to cheer Michael on for throwing her out of his life, literally.
  • Precision F-Strike: Michael's response to the idea of planting Anne into a gorilla's body to save her life.
    Michael: I can't fuck a gorilla!!
  • Psycho Poodle: A heroic version with the poodle of Dolores' former husband. He orders it to kill her for feeding him his own tropical fish and giving him a rage-induced heart attack, but all it can do is shred her nightie. And then she kicks it to death.
  • Ramming Always Works: The Viennese police ask Necessiter's neighbor for a battering ram to break into the doctor's apartment, and get one. Through a series of errors, they ram all the way across and fly out of the building into a pool.
  • Repeat to Confirm: Played for laughs. After the car accident, Hfuhruhurr tells a little girl on the street to call the paramedics with a complex set of instructions. She repeats everything flawlessly.
  • Right Through the Wall: Necessiter's awesome apartment has "stone walls" made of paper. His butler even punches through one to demonstrate. He does not get along well with his neighbors.
  • Selective Obliviousness: Hfuhruhurr never sees, or unwittingly chooses not to see, that Dolores is cheating on him with nearly every male she comes across.
    Dolores: (seeing the gardners) What are those assholes doing on the porch?
    Hfuhruhurr: (chuckling) Those aren't assholes. It's pronounced azaleas.
  • Serial Killer: The Elevator Killer, who injects window cleaner into his victims. He turns out to be Merv Griffin, As Himself.
  • Sexy Coat Flashing: Hfuhruhurr asks the prostitute if he can see the rest of her, prompting this.
  • Shout-Out: Hfuhruhurr loves Judy Garland's Under the Bamboo Tree. So does Anne.
  • Sorry Ociffer: Dr Hfuhruhurr is stopped by a traffic cop while attending a conference in Austria; when asked if he has been drinking, he replies "No, I dron't dink... don't drink".
  • Switch to English: Dr. Hfuhruhurr gets pulled over by a German-speaking policeman. When he replies to the policeman in English, the policeman says, "Oh, you speak English! Good!" and directs his partner to turn off the subtitles.
  • Too Dumb to Live: Fran. When she asks what injecting her with window cleaner will do, Dr. Hfuhruhurr tells her that it'll kill her, leaving the brain to die last.
    Fran: I don't mind!
  • The Unpronounceable: "Hfuhruhurr." Various characters take unsuccessful stabs at it, though the doctor claims it's pronounced exactly as it's spelled. He pronounces it "Hoff-hhhhaaarrrrrr." Anne Uumellmahaye is another example, though her name is pronounced more or less how it's spelled: "Uuuuhhhh-mell-muh-hay." The fact that they can both pronounce each other's names perfectly on the first attempt is a sign that they're soulmates.
    Anne: How else is it supposed to be pronounced? It's spelled H-F-U-H-R-U-H-U-R-R, isn't it?
  • Unusual Pets for Unusual People: Dr. Necessiter, the Mad Scientist, keeps at least three green lizards- one of them's an iguana- in his laboratory, along with some moat alligators. He also has a gorilla, but the gorilla is a brain transplant recipient, not a pet.
  • Villain Ball: Dolores' plan hinges on faking innocence and seducing rich men, driving them either to suicide or until their hearts give out from stress by taking advantage of their better natures. Unfortunately, she tends to break character whenever they are at their breaking point just to rub it in their face how much she loves to watch them squirm. This causes her plans to fail both times, her husband at the beginning of the film leaving her out of his will before trying to kill her, and Michael divorces her when he realizes what she is doing (and later killed by the Elevator Killer).
  • Your Days Are Numbered: Dr. Necessiter reveals that nearly every Brain in a Jar he's procured has had a limited lifespan, and despite living longer than most of them, Anne is equally subject to this. Because of that, in order to save her life, she'll have to be transferred into either a gorilla's body- which Michael understandably rejects- or a freshly-killed human one. Michael appears to be considering Murder Is the Best Solution to save Anne's life, but he can't bring himself to it. Luckily, the Elevator Killer doesn't have those same problems.


Video Example(s):


It's not your job to diagnose!

After the car accident, Hfuhruhurr tells a little girl on the street to call the paramedics with a complex set of instructions. She repeats everything flawlessly.

How well does it match the trope?

Example of:

Main / RepeatToConfirm

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