My Lovely Burnt Brother And His Squashed Brain (1988)

In the 1940 short From Nurse To Worse, The Three Stooges perfected one of their finest recurring gags. A waiter exits a kitchen, carrying a full plate of food. The Stooges, running like maniacs, barrel into the waiter. Food flies everywhere. The waiter nearly backflips from the collision. Moe, Larry, and Curly never look back. The Stooges don’t care about the waiter. They just need to get where they’re going. That’s why it’s funny. The trajectory of My Lovely Burnt Brother And His Squashed Brain works the same way. But we’re stuck in the role of the waiter.

Italians know how to gross us out. From Burial Ground (zombie incest) to Terror Express (butt-hole licking), that point has been proven a trillion times over. But the Italians are also experts at slow-grind meandering. Sometimes, as in Nightmare City, that approach pays off. But other times, as in Zombie 5: Killing Birds, it doesn’t. My Lovely Burnt Brother is a no-budget gore-comedy made by Italians on Super 8 film. It’s gross. In addition, it’s boring. By Italian standards, this movie should contain many minutes of satisfaction. Instead, it contains a long scene of two guys yelling “Fuck the ugly bitch!” at a woman while poking their fingers suggestively through the open zippers in their jeans.

A man rents a movie from a video store. He gets home and places the tape in a VCR. The movie on the tape becomes the movie that we watch. In the movie, a guy with giant gold-rim glasses sits on a couch. A line of text at the bottom of the screen reads: “The Producer.” The guy on the couch says, “This film sucks!” Then we get a black screen with white text that reads: “This film was shot in beer-o-vision. In the next forty seconds, you must chug a beer.” The word “CHEERS” flashes onscreen for forty seconds, followed by “BURP.” The movie begins.

Jenny is a dental hygienist with a brother named Bernie. Jenny never removes her sunglasses. Bernie was in a car accident, so he wears a Klu Klux Klan hood to hide his burn scars. Every few minutes, Bernie appears in a person’s home and mutilates that person. Meanwhile, random episodes of unrelated happenings are seen. A guy castrates himself with garden shears, then eats his severed penis. Another guy courts a blow-up doll over dinner, then has sex with it. Jenny digs her high heels into Bernie’s crotch, injects him with her urine, then makes him eat his own vomit. Later on, a “sub plot” develops when a police lieutenant dressed like a punk mourns her dead cowboy father. The cowboy appears in black and white flashbacks and slips on a banana peel. Bernie kills a woman by placing eels in her bathtub. A power-pop punk band plays a song in someone’s bedroom. There is also a lot of yelling.

My Lovely Burnt Brother was made to offend. In theory, it should have. But it’s hard to take castration seriously when the guy being castrated has a face that would make 1920s slapstick king Ben Turpin proud. Obviously, the guy’s expressions are supposed to be funny. That’s the tone that the filmmakers went for — brain-dead high school toilet humor mixed with gross-out body violence. The problem is that the un-funny jokes overshadow everything else. The lo-fi synth-pop and 1960s-styled fuzz-punk songs were incredible. Bernie’s kill scenes were gritty and shocking. At one point, Bernie removes a man’s face with a deli meat slicer. This scene wouldn’t feel out of place in Nathan Schiff’s Long Island Cannibal Massacre. Despite this, the movie suffers from a schizoid tone and a lack of editing, just like the similarly structured (and titled) The Bloody Video Horror That Made Me Puke On My Aunt Gertrude. Even at 65 minutes long, My Lovely was a chore to get through. Rambling inside jokes (see: vibrators), empty spaces of nothing (a guy eats popcorn and watches TV for almost five minutes), and the strong odor of misogyny (“You sluttish bitch!”) deflated all of the fun. One day, I hope to find an entertaining movie that feels like Multiple Maniacs-era John Waters directing Goremet Zombie Chef From Hell in Lou Reed’s backyard. But this isn’t it.

After five endings, two ambitious special effects reveals, and one legitimately funny joke involving a rose, My Lovely Burnt Brother concludes with an onscreen message:

“Who are the monsters? Is Bernie a monster? ARE YOU A MONSTER?”

That’s some heavy shit to throw down after some death via vibrator-to-the-mouth.

From the Archives