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Written by Martin, Reiner and George Gipe and shot in summer 1982 at Laird International Studios (now The Culver Studios) in Culver City, California, the film is a broad comedy, with Martin starring as Dr. Michael Hfuhruhurr, a pioneering neurosurgeon with a cruel and unfaithful new wife, Dolores Benedict (Turner).
Dr. Michael Hfuhruhurr, a widowed brain surgeon, is renowned for inventing a method of "cranial screw-top" brain surgery. He saves the life of Dolores Benedict, a gold-digging femme fatale who is accidentally run over by Michael when fleeing the scene of her latest husband's fatal coronary, caused by her malicious mind-games and scheming.
As she recovers, Michael falls in love and they marry. Dolores torments Michael by pretending to be too ill to consummate the marriage, citing a continuing headache. On a honeymoon and business trip to a medical conference in Vienna, a city living in fear of the serial "Elevator Killer", Hfuhruhurr meets mad scientist Dr. Alfred Necessiter, who has created a technique enabling him to store living brains in liquid-filled jars using the Elevator Killer's victims.
Michael discovers he can communicate telepathically with one of Necessiter's brains, that of Anne Uumellmahaye. Michael and the disembodied brain fall in love, with Michael taking the brain away to spend more time with it. Dolores—having learned that Michael has received an inheritance from an aunt—attempts to reignite their relationship, but catches on to his relationship with Anne when she spots him in a rowboat with the jar. She attempts to kill Anne by putting the brain in an oven, causing Michael to literally toss Dolores out of his house.
Michael consults with Dr. Necessiter, who informs him that brains in tanks do not survive long, with Anne being his longest-living one to date. Necessiter recommends transplanting Anne's brain into a new body, revealing that he has perfected a process that could allow him to implant the brain into a gorilla. After considering this idea for several seconds, Michael replies, "I couldn't fuck a gorilla!" Michael's only other option is to place Anne's brain in the body of a recently-deceased woman.
Filling a syringe with window cleaner, the substance used by the Elevator Killer, Michael sees a crowd gathering around an attractive woman hit by a car, and is seen as odd for hoping she will expire, only to see her regain consciousness. Michael next selects a prostitute with an annoying voice, but his conscience prevents him from killing her. Stepping into an elevator, he finds that Dolores has just been murdered by the Elevator Killer, who turns out to be Merv Griffin. Michael takes Dolores' corpse, and Griffin promises to turn himself in to the police.
Michael hurriedly takes Dolores's body to Necessiter's lab. He is stopped by the Austrian police, who suspect him of drunk driving. After a series of unusual sobriety tests, the police permit him to leave. However, as Dolores' body flails, the police realize that she was not drunk, but dead, and pursue his car.
Michael makes it to the lab, where Necessiter transfers Anne's consciousness to Dolores's body, which is viewed by the stunned policemen. In the process, Michael is electrically shocked by the equipment and falls into a coma.
Waking up six weeks later, Michael meets Anne in Dolores's body. Anne is a compulsive eater, and has gained considerable weight in her new body. Michael loves Anne for who she is, and they are married. A note in the credits requests that the audience to report the whereabouts of Merv Griffin if they see him.
- Steve Martin as Dr. Michael Hfuhruhurr
- Kathleen Turner as Dolores Benedict
- David Warner as Dr. Alfred Necessiter
- Paul Benedict as Dr. Necessiter's butler
- George Furth as Timon
- Peter Hobbs as Dr. Brandon
- Earl Boen as Dr. Felix Conrad
- Randi Brooks as Fran
- James Cromwell as realtor
- Francis X. McCarthy as Olsen (as Frank McCarthy)
- Estelle Reiner as tourist in elevator
- Merv Griffin as himself
- Jeffrey Combs as Dr. Jones
- Sissy Spacek as voice of Anne Uumellmahaye (Uncredited)
On Rotten Tomatoes the film has an approval rating of 76% based on reviews from 21 critics. The site's consensus states "As spastically uneven as its zany title suggests, The Man with Two Brains isn't peak Steve Martin -- but it's still often close enough to enjoy." On Metacritic the film has a score of 61 out of 100 based on 9 critic reviews, indicating "generally favorable reviews".
Roger Ebert gave the film 2 out of 4 stars, and wrote that despite that fact that "never found Steve Martin irresistibly funny" ... "it's a tribute to "The Man With Two Brains" that I found myself laughing a fair amount of the time, despite my feelings about Martin."
- The Man with Two Brains at Box Office Mojo
- "Movies You Might Have Missed: Carl Reiner's The Man with Two Brains", The Independent (June 21, 2017).
- "The Man with Two Brains". Metacritic.
- Ebert, Roger. "The Man With Two Brains movie review (1983)". Chicago Sun-Times.
- Maslin, Janet (3 June 1983). "Martin in 'Man with 2 Brains'". The New York Times.
- Variety Staff (1 January 1983). "The Man with Two Brains". Variety.
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