“Hitler, alive? That’s incredible!”
Despite different names and a five-year gap, these films are inextricably linked, mainly because they are almost the exact same movie. With current ratings of 2.6/10 and 2.3/10 on IMDB respectively, the latter in particular is widely regarded as one of the worst films of all time, which has led to the former also being tarred with the same brush.
Madmen of Mandoras, directed by David Bradley, is a convoluted tale about a group of Nazis living on the South American island of Mandoras. Taking their orders from the severed head of Adolf Hitler – or, as he is affectionately called, Mr H – they plan on releasing a deadly gas into the atmosphere so that they can achieve global domination. The only problem is that Professor Coleman has the antidote. Coleman and his beatnik floozy daughter Suzanne are kidnapped and taken to Mandoras, where the professor is subjected to torture (in a moment of worrying foresight, this comes in the form of sensory abuse) and Suzanne is told to go and party, but not to phone home. Learning of her father’s disappearance, other daughter KC and her husband Phil travel to the tropical island to foil Mr H’s evil plans.
The film boasts some impressive cinematography, shot by two-time Oscar nominee Stanley Cortez (The Magnificent Ambersons), but it’s not enough to save it. The narrative is overly complicated and filled with plot holes, made even more confusing by the poor introductions of the cast. There are moments of total ineptitude – in one lengthy passage of stock footage montage, island native Camino (Carlos Rivas) tells KC and Phil about the war and the involvement of his brother (Rivas, with a moustache) in Hitler’s dastardly plot to cheat death. With Camino’s face superimposed over World War II footage and newly filmed scenes of Mr H ranting manically in a bunker, he falls silent on several occasions, apparently allowing KC and Phil to visualise the story unaided.
Oddly, the severed head of Mr H communicates mostly through emphatic eyebrow movements, although he does shout “Mach Schnell” on occasion. Somehow, however, his lackeys understand his intentions just fine. It is slightly unclear why Adolf had to be decapitated in order to live an extra eighteen years after the war but, ultimately, his plans for eternal life did not take into account the effect of a well-positioned hand grenade.
Although it sounds action-packed, Madmen of Mandoras is so incoherent and muddled that it never feels exciting or dynamic. It’s worth watching, however, just for the melting head of Mr H in the film’s climactic battle; surrounded by flames, the once-powerful Fuhrer silently disintegrates right before our very eyes. At a brief seventy-eight minutes, this scene alone is worth the drudgery that precedes it.
And now, They Saved Hitler’s Brain. In 1968 some enterprising folks decided to sell Madmen of Mandoras to the television networks but, problematically, it was too short. Enter some UCLA students, who add a whopping twenty minutes of footage, and hey presto! Problem solved. Except, eliminating one of the film’s flaws – its length – introduced a wealth of brand new ones.
Instead of integrating new footage throughout Bradley’s film, the additions all take place at the beginning. Madmen of Mandoras’ opening sequence, involving a lecture-style scene providing information about the deadly gas, is replaced with a man getting blown up in a car. This event results in two CID agents investigating: a floppy-haired man called Vic and Toni, who is hilariously mistaken for a bloke because of her name. Adding new layers of convolution to the already bemusing plot, they proceed to interview people who have nothing to do with anything, discuss gender issues, decide to not interview Professor Coleman (see what they did there?!), witness the abduction of “Coleman” by two men who are almost always described by critics as “the Blues Brothers,” learn their boss is actually a Nazi double agent, and die, ensuring that, after twenty five minutes, everything shown is rendered irrelevant. After Toni has died of a gunshot wound, the boss has been shot, and Vic has crashed his car into an electricity generator (footage taken from Thunder Road), Bradley’s film is shown, entirely unaltered.
Apart from the mention of Coleman, and a scene apparently showing the professor being kidnapped, and a sequence from Bradley’s original film inserted without context or introduction, there are no attempts to integrate the new footage with old. Costume and hairstyles reveal the time gap – in the new opening scenes, the men wear flares and sport distinctive porn-star hairstyles, in stark contrast to the restrained formality of Madmen of Mandoras’ cast. While the majority of Bradley’s scenes take place indoors, the uncredited opening sequence in They Saved Hitler’s Brain consists predominantly of blurry exterior shots. The films’ scores are entirely different also; orchestral accompaniment is replaced with jazzy tones. Everything about this new addition reveals the shoddy, half-hearted, careless lack of artistry, which has in turn caused Bradley’s convoluted, but inoffensive, movie to be dragged down.
Today, the two films are seldom distinguished. Watching Bradley’s movie is a confusing viewing experience; this is nothing in contrast to They Saved Hitler’s Brain, which eschews any sense of narrative continuity. Of course, after the initial twenty-five minutes, the characters we were led to believe were the film’s heroes are never mentioned again, nor are the events that occurred in the opening moments. In truth, after adjusting to the difference in character, plot, score, and visual elements, this added footage is easy to forget entirely. It just means the viewer has to wait even longer to see Mr H go up in flames.