The Man with Two Brains (1983) (NTSC)

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Released 25-Jun-2002

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Comedy None
Rating Rated M
Year Of Production 1983
Running Time 89:41
RSDL / Flipper No/No Cast & Crew
Start Up Programme
Region Coding 1,4 Directed By Carl Reiner

Warner Home Video
Starring Steve Martin
Kathleen Turner
David Warner
Case Amaray-Transparent
RPI $19.95 Music Joel Goldsmith

Video (NTSC) Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame Pan & Scan English Dolby Digital 1.0 (192Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio None
16x9 Enhancement No
Video Format 480i (NTSC)
Original Aspect Ratio 1.85:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles None Smoking Yes
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis

    The Man With Two Brains (1983) is a classic comedy from the 1980s golden age of American comedies. Whether you like this movie or not will depend on whether you like Steve Martin's zany, off-beat, downright silly sense of humour or not. For me, this has always been Steve Martin's funniest film -  and I know that's a big call, up against stiff competition from the likes of such classics as The Jerk, The Lonely Guy, All of Me and Dirty Rotten Scoundrels. The appeal of Steve Martin's humour for me lies in the warmth of its delivery. He manages to come across completely sincere and cool, even when delivering the most absurdly stupid or corniest of lines. Just like Chevy Chase, he also has an innate way of acting completely deadpan and suave, when everyone and everything happening around him is in fact foundering in silliness!  His delivery is impeccable, and therein lies Steve Martin's comedic genius.

    This movie was directed by and co-written with Carl Reiner, and this is another reason why it works so well. Carl Reiner is a long-time collaborator with Steve Martin, and previous to this film the two had already worked together on The Jerk (1979) and Dead Men Don't Wear Plaid (1982). The year after this film they went on to do All of Me. It is apparent that by the time they got to The Man With Two Brains, they knew and respected each other very well. They must have had an absolute ball writing this one, too. This movie contains just as much silliness as The Jerk, but a lot more polish  It is an excellent showcase for this type of comedy.

    Want the plot? OK, well just remember, you did ask for it!... Steve Martin plays Dr Michael Hfuhruhurr (yes, it's pronounced exactly the way it's spelt!). He loves brains. Dr Hfuhruhurr is a world famous brain surgeon and originator of the brilliant new zip-lock, screw-top brain surgery technique. Dr Hfuhruhurr is also a modest man, summing himself up to a journalist rather shyly but succinctly by saying that "My brilliant research in brain transplantation is unsurpassed and will make my name live beyond eternity"!  After our modest Doctor accidentally knocks over and almost kills Delores Benedict (a very young looking Kathleen Turner) in a car accident, he is forced to save her life with his own screw-top brain surgery technique and soon they are married. But the marriage is not a happy one. After meeting fellow eminent brain surgeon Dr Necessiter (David Warner) and visiting his rather spacious home laboratory (inside his condominium), Dr Hfuhruhurr meets and falls in love with the lovely Ann Uumellmahaye (not credited, but actually the voice of Sissy Spacek). Ann Uumellmahaye is the woman who could be everything for Dr Hfuhruhurr that Delores is not. That is, once they overcome the very small problem that Ann is just a brain in a jar!....

      I was very interested in reviewing this movie to see if it still held up for me and was still as funny as I last remembered it - about 15 years ago. I needn't have worried. After hearing the very first mention of the "Pointy Pointy Birds" poem, it cracked me up just the same. This film is still just as crazy, just as stupid, just as corny and just as uproariously funny as I remembered it last. Champagne comedy.

Don't wish to see plot synopses in the future? Change your configuration.

Transfer Quality


    Oh dear, oh dear. Disappointment number one: the transfer is yet another Region 1 NTSC re-badge from Warner Home Video. That leads us on to disappointment number two; we have to suffer the same 1.33:1 Pan & Scan transfer as is (apparently) more acceptable in that market. If you want to skip ahead to disappointment number three now (the mother of all disappointments), then just read the first line under "Audio".

    If you've done that now, and you're anything like me, you've probably read everything you need to know to sum up this DVD without even watching it; i.e.. "this transfer is the very bottom of the quality chain in terms of both video and audio formats, and is not worth considering further, so I might as well move along to the next review." I can't blame you. Hardly worth treating as a serious DVD release at all, is it? (sigh). Oh well, for what it's worth.....

   The quality of the source from which this DVD has been mastered is rather dated and faded. This is probably not overly surprising when you think about it, as both the video and audio transfer specs imply to me that this must have been from an early sub-master originally used for the US television airing - and perhaps even the very first screening of this movie on US television as long ago as the mid 1980s. I'm not sure of its exact age, but certainly this transfer is an old one and therefore you can probably already think ahead and fill in the blanks about all the comments I'm about to make in respect of the transfer's luminance and chrominance - it's exactly what you would consider acceptable for a mid 1980s television screening, but not the quality you would consider acceptable for home theatre.

    The transfer is not what can be described as sharp at all, but OK, it is at least of a uniformly standard resolution quality. There is grain inherent in the image throughout, but I suppose it remains unobtrusive enough after you have been watching (and laughing) along for a while. Shadow detail is just average. There is no real low level noise to speak of.

    Colours are faded. This film did not employ spectacular cinematography or adopt any use of vibrant colours in the first place, but on this very old transfer it just comes over as plain old drab, drab, drab.

    There are no real MPEG artefacts to speak of. Film-to-video artefacts consist of some trivial aliasing and the odd telecine wobble (check out the closing credits). Film artefacts on the other hand are - again not unexpected for the age of this transfer - the problem. They consist of all number of odd film flecks, hairs and scratches throughout, most of which are none too distressing I should point out, but some areas (like Chapter 19) do suffer more than others. There is also the more noticeable distractions in the image caused by several negative film artefacts, like at 9:43 for instance.

    There are no subtitles on this disc and it is a single layer disc, so there is no layer change to note.

Video Ratings Summary
Shadow Detail
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts


    Disappointment number three:  the audio mix foisted on us is - wait for it - glorious "Dolby Digital 1.0" - that's modern speak for mono. Oh golly gee, oh my, oh wonderful, thanks a lot for that!  I think this must be the very first DVD movie I've ever put into my player that has contained a mono soundtrack - and it will hopefully be the last!  As I inserted the disc, I could almost hear my player and my amplifier implore "are you joking?". This is hardly acceptable quality from a major DVD distributor releasing a well-known, albeit granted dated, Hollywood comedy.

    As an avid Steve Martin fan and someone who was desperately awaiting this movie's release on DVD, I think I would have actually preferred Warners not release it at all, if it meant having a favourite movie subjected to this quality video and audio transfer. It would have been better to wait for however long it took to get around to a decent quality transfer effort, or even for me to have gone without entirely, rather than having to suffer the indignation of hearing Steve Martin deliver his poignantly eloquent "Pointy Pointy Bird" poem in mono, for crying out loud!!...

    OK, I've calmed down a bit again now, so what can I tell you about the quality of the audio transfer? Well there's very little dynamic range to it for starters. Oh, and it's an extremely flat mix, as you may expect. But at least I can say the clarity of the dialogue is fine throughout. Well, apart from some isolated instances of minor audio distortion over a few of the lines during Chapter 2, anyway. Audio sync is fine.

    The music is by Joel Goldsmith. There's only the odd music track and scoring here and there. It's music firmly rooted in the 1980s and is very deliberately over-the-top in its quirkiness, so it suits the movie very well and has a charm of its own.

    My subwoofer, along with four of my other speakers, stole away and were off playing cards somewhere while this movie was running.


Audio Ratings Summary
Audio Sync
Surround Channel Use



R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

    This Region 4 release is yet another in the long line of recent Region 1 re-badges.


    The Man With Two Brains is a movie you will either love or hate, depending on whether Steve Martin's crazy, quirky sense of humour appeals or not. Personally, I think this is arguably his all-time funniest feature and showcases the brilliance of the man's comedic timing and serious deadpan delivery of the absurdly silly. The story is well paced, keeps the interest and is a great vehicle to deliver all the gags. Above all, it's an absolute hoot.

    For those who haven't experienced this film before and for those like myself keen to relive the silliness, you will all be sorely annoyed with the shoddy treatment the film receives on DVD. It's hard to even summon up the enthusiasm to bother in the first place, when you are dished up the very bottom end of the food chain in terms of both video and audio formats. It would probably have been better not to release it in the first place, if this is all that could be mustered up. Warners, go and hide in a corner somewhere. Or perhaps those responsible should be dealt with as Dr Hfuhruhurr would have dealt with them; by injecting their buttocks with window cleaner (it causes their brains to die last!).....

Ratings (out of 5)


© Sean Abberton (read my bio)
Saturday, September 28, 2002
Review Equipment
DVDToshiba 2109, using Component output
DisplayToshiba 117cm widescreen RPTV. Calibrated with AVIA Guide To Home Theatre. This display device is 16x9 capable.
Audio DecoderYamaha RXV-1000. Calibrated with AVIA Guide To Home Theatre.
AmplificationElektra Home Theatre surround power amp
SpeakersOrpheus Aurora III mains, Orpheus Centaurus 1.0 centre, Velodyne CT150 sub and B&W DM303 rears

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